Hallalujah! She stamps my hand!

By Marcella Perrine, TNC Arizona Regional Leader

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 hours.

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 yes, humiliation.

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 in.

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.

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