MI Cuts Drug Tests For Parolees; Treatment Budget Down


Michigan’s prison agency cut the number of drug tests for parolees more than 20 percent last year and is on schedule to test even fewer felons this year, raising concerns that they could relapse and return to crime, the Detroit News reports. In March, the state Department of Corrections did away with mandatory testing for medium-risk parolees, replacing it with discretionary testing in a move to make better use of department resources. Maximum-risk parolees now are the only ones tested on a regular basis. The state has cut its budget for drug treatment of felons more than 60 percent in the last five years.

Russ Marlan, a department spokesman, said agents are focusing resources on the parolees who appear most at risk of drug use. “We’re trying to get smarter about the testing,” he said. Parole and probation agents have a good sense of warning signs of drug use, he said, pointing to positive test results that have climbed from 10 percent in 2004 to 13 percent. The overall number testing positive has declined, from 56,611 in 2004 to 50,431 this year. Patrick Selepak, a parolee mistakenly left on the streets, offers a dramatic example of what can happen when felons return to drugs. Selepak intends to plead guilty to killing three people during an alcohol- and cocaine-fueled rampage. “I would not trust myself to know who is relapsing,” said Douglas Marlow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies substance abuse among offenders. “I suppose you could say that at some point they will become so dysfunctional that any idiot can spot them. Budgeting issues are always a problem, but there is no clinical reason to test them less.”

Link: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060509/METRO/605090354

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