Is a Drug Toxicology Required for a State Prison Job?

By Laura Terwilliger

State prison employees undergo a rigorous application process to ensure that only capable people work in such a sensitive environment. This usually includes background checks, psychological and physical exams, and often, drug testing. Each state has its own laws regulating the screening and hiring of employees, but drug testing is a controversial issue on its own. Regardless of your stance on the subject, drug testing has benefits and drawbacks that require consideration.

Function

Drug testing can occur before or during employment with the state prison system. Testing before hiring allows the state to screen out drug users prior to employing them. This helps determine who meets the job requirements up front, instead of having to terminate employment later on. Some states test current employees, which keeps drug users from passing one test to get the job and then using drugs while working.

Types

Drug testing is commonly performed through urinalysis, which is inexpensive in comparison to other tests. The applicant submits a sample of urine which is analyzed for the presence of drugs. Another common method is a saliva test, which is slightly more expensive than a urine test, but may be less reliable without a careful lab. Other methods of testing analyze hair or blood, but these tests are less commonly used due to cost, reliability and intrusiveness.

Benefits

Drug testing prison employees has some benefits. It ensures that those employed in the prison system follow the law themselves. It may also screen out dishonest employees who would agree to smuggle drugs for prisoners. Proponents of drug testing prison employees hope that keeping employees drug-free will help stop the flow of drugs into state prisons.

Considerations

Some disagree with the drug testing of state prison employees. They argue that drug screening prejudices the state against competent employees who may use drugs in their personal time. Also, false-positive results of drug tests could effectively destroy a law-abiding employee's career. Some people argue that drug testing itself is too intrusive for any employer to use. Drug testing also does not catch employees who would smuggle drugs for prisoners without using the drugs themselves.

States Requiring Testing

Some states require drug testing for state prison employees. Most that require drug tests use those tests as a part of the employee's application process. Other states, including Florida and Texas, have taken drug testing a step further and perform random drug tests on their employees. When, or if, testing occurs depends on the individual state's laws.

About the Author

Laura Terwilliger has been a professional writer since 2009. Terwilliger holds a B.A. in history and anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and is a student at Seton Hall University School of Law.