Nearly 50 Attica Inmates Falsely Test Positive for Opiate Use

January 21, 2012 Updated Jan 21, 2012 at 7:31 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

January 21, 2012 Updated Jan 21, 2012 at 7:31 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - A number of inmates at Attica Correctional Facility falsely tested positive for opiate use after random testing in December.

A total of 57 inmates tested positive for the use of Suboxone, a drug containing buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opiate addiction.
According to the Department of Corrections, that's an extremely high number compared to other facilities and previous tests.

Also in December, Western New York Prisoner Legal Services receive a flood of letters from Attica inmates claiming they tested positive for a drug they never used.

Inmates testing positive were subject to disciplinary hearings that resulted in many cases, solitary confinement, the loss phone use and commissary privileges, loss of family visitation and loss of accrued "good time status", which can affect parole hearing outcomes.

After nearly a month of complaints, the Superintendent of Attica contacted the manufacturer of the drug testing equipment, who, after testing, found it to be mis-calibrated, leading to the false-positive results.

As a result, 48 of the 57 prisoners who tested positive for Suboxone will have their their positive test reversed and have imposed sanctions reversed.

"All the inmates that were initially flagged for having a positive drug test, which would result in a sanction a determined by the facility will now have those sanctions vacated," says Peter Cutler, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections.

Still, some are wondering why took a month to correct the issue, and what can be done for the inmates who unjustly suffered sanctions.

"I would just hope that in the future [the Department of Corrections] is able to respond to these situation in a speedier fashion, even though I do give them credit for investigating this and resolving it in about a month and a half," said Karen Murtagh of Prisoner Legal Services.

The other 9 inmates who tested positive for Suboxone also tested positive for other drugs and will not have their positive test results overturned.