Pubdate: Tue, 07 Aug 2001
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Cincinnati Post
Author: Kimball Perry


Policy Began In September

A drug-testing policy ordered last year by Hamilton County judges as their 
Probation Department was embroiled in controversy is now history.

Hamilton County judges are allowing Chief Probation Officer Jay Heitz to 
terminate their policy of uniformly testing people convicted in their 
courtrooms and placed on probation.

The policy was adopted last September when judges learned the probation 
department wasn't always following their orders to conduct drug urinalysis 

Several probation officers and supervisors were disciplined after audits 
revealed that not all court-ordered urine tests were being conducted .

Probation officers had complained it was difficult keeping track of all of 
the court orders to test probationers because each of the 16 common pleas 
court judges operated differently.

The judges implemented a testing policy requiring all judges to order the 
tests - which can reveal drug use, a violation of probation - uniformly.

Heitz and Court Administrator Mike Walton agreed that two factors 
encouraged them to make the change:

Unlike last summer before the controversy, probation officers now have the 
abili ty to track cases using a computer, including how many urine tests 
each probationer has taken, the results and any missed tests.

The tests cost a lot of money.

About 175 probationers were on the program judges adopted last year that 
called for them to be tested every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, 
resulting in more than 500 mandatory tests monthly.

At $5 to $6 per test, that's as much as $3,000 per month for just those tests.

That is in addition to the other probationers being tested under other 
programs or more random orders from judges.

The same result the judges wanted with the uniform program it adopted last 
year, Walton and Heitz agreed, can be accomplished with random drug tests, 
a change implemented last week.

''Under the random testing, the 'typical' person will get hit 
four-and-a-half times a month, which is sufficient to catch anyone who is 
using,'' Walton said.

The random drug testing, approved by the judges after it was suggested by 
Heitz, will result in a 40 percent cutback in urine tests for those in the 
program adopted last year.

''It makes good sense to me to do that,'' Walton said of switching to 
random testing.

Under the new program, each person on probation will be tested at least 
once a week at random.

That will prevent, officials hope, probationers continuing to use drugs but 
timing it so that the drugs are out of their systems by the next urine test.
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