IOWA - Drug Scans Snare 2 Kids by Mistake : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

[Fair use for education and research purpose only]

TITLE: Drug Scans Snare 2 Kids by Mistake

By WILLIAM PETROSKI Register Staff Writer 03/30/2000

A routine family visit to the Clarinda state prison last week turned into a nightmare for Diana Wilson of Murray.

Her 13-year-old son, Timothy Duke, was accused of having cocaine on his hands and pockets after being checked with an ion scanning detector. The electronic gear is being used to curb drug smuggling by checking visitors at all nine Iowa prisons.

April Alstott of Sioux City was stunned the same day, when her 6-year-old son, Kyle, tested positive for cocaine on his hands and clothes. He was at the Clarinda prison to visit his father, who is an inmate.

Both families were ordered to leave the prison March 23 and told their visiting privileges were revoked for a month. Before either family reached home, prison employees discovered a mistake. The high-tech equipment was wrong. Neither child carried any traces of drugs.

Mark Lund, Clarinda's prison superintendent, said it's unfortunate that initial tests involving both families were erroneous, but he is pleased his staff discovered the mistakes.

Both families were allowed to return to the prison that day for their visits. Lund said he couldn't comment further on problems experienced by the families until he spoke directly with them.

"We have a lot of confidence in the machine," Lund said. "I am not saying that we won't make mistakes, because I am sure we will over time. But to date, I think we have been pretty good at catching those mistakes. The machine's validity has been established by scientists and engineers, and we are very hopeful it will provide us with a safer prison."

Both mothers remain angry about their experiences. They said Clarinda prison staff members initially refused to listen to their pleas that mistakes had been made.

Wilson said she objects to the Iowa Department of Corrections' continued use of the ion scanning equipment. "It's obvious the machine doesn't work. I don't like the idea of it anyway," Wilson said. Her son, Jeremiah Duke, is a Clarinda inmate.

April Alstott said she has fears about going back to the prison. "It was horrible. My son was crying. He doesn't even know what cocaine is. He didn't know what he did."

She said she was treated rudely. "A guy came and he looked at the test and he was shaking his head," Alstott said. "He said, "First of all, who's his mother?" And then he looked at me like, "How dare you bring your son in here?"

"I just flipped out," Alstott said. "I home-school my son. I said there he hasn't been around drugs at all. I called my husband's counselor. But it was like their hands were tied. They wouldn't test him again."

Wilson said she, too, expressed shock at the positive test for cocaine on her son. "I said there is no way, but the guy just kept saying, "You can't visit." I said, "I want my son retested," but he said, "No, we can"t retest." ""

After Wilson left the prison and started to get into her truck in the prison parking lot, a prison employee came out and told her, "Ma'am, you can come back in and visit now." Another prison worker told her the ion scanner had been contaminated with cocaine.

Jeanette Bucklew, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, said she inspected the ion scanning equipment at the Clarinda prison last Friday and found nothing wrong.

"I reviewed all of their maintenance logs and all of their maintenance procedures. As a matter of fact, they did the test on me, just as they do it on visitors. I was very comfortable with their operation of the equipment," Bucklew said. Copyright ) 2000, The Des Moines Register.


-- (, March 30, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ