Hallalujah! She stamps my hand!
By Marcella Perrine, TNC Arizona
I'm standing outside the federal prison
on October 14, 2000 reading the following notice presented to
me by prison officials:
Through the use of an electronic
drug detection device, you have tested positive for particles
of a controlled substance. Based on this positive test finding
you are denied entry into this institution for a period of 48
hours. If you return after the 48-hour restriction period, you
will be retested for controlled substances. If you retest negative,
you will be allowed entry into the institution. However, if you
retest positive for a second time within a 30-day period, you
will be denied entry for a period of 30 days. If after a 30-day
suspension you test positive, you shall be denied entry into
the institution for a period of 90 days. Upon your return from
a 90-day suspension if you test positive, you shall be denied
entry into the institution for a period of 180 days. If you care
to appeal this notice, you may write to the warden of this institution.
It's Saturday. I've rented a car and
traveled 6 hours to see my son after years of waiting for him
to be transferred closer to home. Now I'm able, realistically,
to drive for a visit with him, and now his keepers also deny
me access to him because a machine, a vacuum machine, registers
I have particles of a controlled substance on me!
Anger, massive rage is sweeping over me! I'm standing outside
with a prison official when the rage turns to helplessness. I
quickly realize that no amount of swearing or tears is going
to change the fact that I will not be visiting my son for 48
Frustration sets in; I cannot get a blood test done at the hospital
because it requires a doctor's order, and on a Saturday there
isn't a drug testing lab open. My fiancé tries to console
me as we drive back to the hotel. I'm back to tears, anger and
The way they test you in front of everyone got to me, then test
you again, get out the "red" notebook, talk on the
radio, keep looking at you as more officers gather and whisper.
The supervisor comes and asks you to "please step outside",
and all eyes focus on you as you comply. And I'm back to being
really angry with myself as I stare out at this ugly town from
my hotel window.
I'm mad that I got so emotional, that I didn't ask them to test
other people (or better yet a guard or two) so it could give
the machine a base line, ask how accurate the machine is supposed
to be or when the last time it was serviced? At least I could
have found out what substance it said I was trying to smuggle
Back to the prison I go. Methamphetamine! Methamphetamine? As
overweight as I am? I want to scream, "Look at me! Do I
look like a speed freak?" My fiancé leads me out
by arm; I am reduced to being led by the arm.
It's now Monday evening, October 16. The 48 hour waiting period
has passed. I'm paranoid now as I debate whether to even put
on make up or deodorant. I bought - and am wearing brand new
- never washed or worn clothes. My fiancé and I are the
only ones in the prison waiting area. I try to be calm reminding
myself, "you're innocent. It was the machine that was guilty",
but I'm sweating as I hand the guard the paper.
Yep, the old computer has alerted her of Saturday's incident.
But there's a new twist here. Instead of vacuuming the front
of my clothing, I am told to take a piece of paper and wad it
up in both my hands and then they put it in the machine. Oh No!
It's making a beeping noise just like Saturday. Now, I'm holding
my breath. Oh, no she's whispering to the other guard, and now
they are both looking at me. She's got a notebook marking in
it and suddenly - Hallelujah - she stamps my hand!
I'm so happy I don't even ask about the beeping. I just know
that I get to see my son.
The test is called Advanced Toxicology Network, dated October
18, and my results:
THC: Negative Amphetamines: Negative Benzoylecgonine: Negative
Opiates: Negative Phencyclidine: Negative Barbiturates: Negative
Benzodiazepines: Negative Propxyphene: Negative Methadone: Negative
Methaqualone: Negative Alcohol: Negative
I was denied timely access to a test like this when, if it had
been carried out immediately, I could have had more time with
my son. I'm on a mission now - fellow November Coalition members
- to find out the effectiveness of the drug detection machines
being used in the prisons today, machines that lie just like
this whole drug war.