Prisoners' rights advocates are understandably worried about an advisory panel's recommendation that the government overhaul the rules for testing drugs on prison inmates, editorializes the New York Times. The newspaper cites “the medieval situation of just 30 years ago, when inmates were often subjected to dangerous and unethical experimental procedures.” A new report from the Institute of Medicine offers a possible outline for a system of testing that could benefit both the population as a whole and prison inmates, who tend to be among the sickest people in society.
The dismal state of medical care in many prisons raises the possibility that inmates would rush to sign up for drug trials simply to get treatment for chronic problems. Policy should move slowly on this issue, the Times says. The editorial concludes: “The savage and dishonorable legacy of drug testing in prison makes it imperative that any change be carried out carefully, with maximum transparency and concern for inmate safety. That will require far more federal oversight than current law provides.”