CoQ10 and False Positives: a dilemma for prisoners

By Donna Sawyer

My boyfriend, Kim, is serving nearly thirteen years for a first time drug offense. His disciplinary record has been spotless for the past eight years of his incarceration. During this time Kim developed a serious medical condition that caused a large amount of blood loss, emergency surgery and, ultimately, a blood transfusion due to the usual government neglect. An outside doctor afterwards told Kim that taking CoQ10, an antioxidant, would help him heal. Kim acquired a sealed bottle of CoQ10 from another inmate who was being released, but CoQ10 was not sold at the prison. Although it is not a controlled substance, it is considered contraband by the Bureau of Prisons.

An inmate living with Kim was found with some unrelated contraband, and when Kim wouldn't tell on this person, he was threatened "with a shot that would stick." Kim received an incident report for possession of narcotics after taking a B.O.P. ordered/administered Narcotic Identification Kit (NIK) test that proved positive for amphetamines. Witnesses stated that Kim had taken CoQ10 that morning, but the BOP refused to authorize an outside lab test at Kim's expense. Though the instructions for the field-test clearly state that the test is presumptive, not positive - and testing by other means is necessary - no other testing methods were used.

The BOP made its decision based on the field test only, transferred Kim 2,000 miles from home and took one year of his 'good time'. Dan Berkable - a forensic chemist qualified as expert witness for legal proceedings - has performed the NIK field test hundreds of times on a variety of substances. "I can say it is most beneficial for detecting opiates, and its least beneficial use is for amphetamines," he says. "In the scientific community the NIK test, or testing with marquis reagent, is used only as a presumptive test regardless of the operator's experience. It should never be accepted as a positive test."

The bottom line is that there are certainly many prisoners wrongfully disciplined by this ludicrous and unreliable testing method. We are very interested in any information that could help us monitor and catalogue the extent of this unjust BOP policy.

Contact Donna Sawyer at 2708 Stargate St., Las Vegas, NV 89108.

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