Hundreds of New York State prisoners say they were punished after tests falsely determined they had used drugs, they charged in a federal class-action lawsuit, reports the New York Times. Many inmates spent months in solitary confinement or locked in cells. Others were denied release on parole, removed from programs, or held beyond their scheduled release dates after testing positive for narcotics, said the lawsuit. The plaintiffs, who include former and current inmates, say the manufacturer of the drug-testing equipment used in prisons — Microgenics Corporation and its parent company, Thermo Fisher Scientific — failed to ensure that its devices produced accurate results. The state corrections department has begun reviewing tests taken this year that came back positive for the opioids Suboxone and buprenorphine, the lawsuit says.
Corrections spokesman Thomas Mailey said the prisons had stopped using the Microgenics equipment after learning that results were inaccurate. They “immediately reversed any actions taken as a result of these tests, and restored privileges to any potentially affected inmates,” he said. Prison officials are planning to sue the manufacturer. Prisoner advocates said the prison system had reversed some guilty findings, reinstated educational and recreational programming for inmates who had been removed, and released some people who were being held longer because of faulty tests. Mailey declined to say how many findings were reversed, when the state stopped using the equipment, or how officials learned the tests were faulty. The prison system has usiedthe Microgenics devices since 2018, when the state signed a five-year, $1.6 million contract with the company to supply 52 prisons with Indiko Plus “urinalysis analyzers.” “It’s a civil rights issue. It’s a justice issue,” said Karen Murtagh of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.