Department of Corrections
Random Drug Testing of Employees
Frankfort, KY – Beginning January 1, 2006 the Kentucky Department of Corrections will implement a program to randomly test its hazardous duty and non-merit employees for illegal drug usage. Employees began receiving notification of the program’s implementation today.
“I commend Commissioner John Rees and DOC for taking the initiative to make our corrections system safer. Random drug testing will help ensure the high standards we hold for all state employees,” said Governor Ernie Fletcher.
“Random drug testing is a continuation of a program we began last October. The change expands one we had in place since the 1980s that authorized post-offer, pre-employment drug testing, and random drug testing of hazardous duty personnel,” said Corrections Commissioner John D. Rees. “Since implementing the policy of testing prospective new employees since last October, we’ve had nearly 10 percent of those tested come back positive – 110 out of 1,121.”
None of those Corrections employees testing positive were hired.
“This post-offer, pre-employment testing has saved the Department vast amounts in training and has helped ensure the safety of the public, staff and inmates,” said Rees. “By taking the next step of random drug testing, we will further improve the quality of our corrections operations statewide.”
The rank-and-file Corrections staff agrees.
“In my opinion, I believe this is best idea that’s come out of the Department,” said Lt. Jay Whitfield, a six-year officer at the Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR) in LaGrange and a 21-year Army veteran. “I believe this will help us get rid of some of the riff raff that shouldn’t be in these jobs. How are we supposed to enforce the law if we are breaking the law? That’s the way I look at it.”
“I support this move by the Department. At the Penitentiary, we deal with the most dangerous inmates within the system,” said Joel Dunlap, a Unit Administrator and former Correctional Officer and Internal Affairs supervisor at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP). “It’s essential that all staff think clearly as we must often make split second decisions that are justified and reasonable. If you are under the influence, you could risk your safety, the inmate's and possibly the community.”
Kevin Mazza, a sergeant at KSR, which is the state’s largest prison, said it was an “excellent” move by the agency.
“I’m all for it,” said Mazza. “This job is a lot of responsibility. We have nearly 2,000 inmates here and if someone comes to work impaired then they’re endangering all of us.”
The news was especially welcomed to many in the Corrections medical arena.
KSP Nurse Service Administrator John Wood, said, “Random employee drug testing is not unusual in other businesses and it makes sense to perform it in correctional facilities. It is appropriate to know that the people who are in charge of keeping the community safe are not involved in drugs.”
“Commissioner Rees is to be commended by setting the example and ensuring that we keep our employees drug free and sober,” said Teresa Barton, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy. “The administration supports top performing employees and this is one more way to ensure that we hire and keep only those who take pride in their jobs.”