One of our readers asked this question: Why are people being tested for drugs and alcohol when the charges have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol?
According to the Grand Traverse County website, there are 4.6 probation officers in Grand Traverse County. Each one serves a caseload of 185 people, again according to their website.
If each of those people is court ordered to take a breathalyzer test even 10 times per month, and a breathalyzer test costs $3 each, that’s $306,360 in court-ordered business for people in the community. The people on probation go to jail if they don’t do it. That $306,360 is dollars in the pockets of those who conduct the testing. Those are just estimates. Some people on probation test twice a day. There are also more costly urinalysis tests in addition to PBTs.
Now in a lot of cases, that testing is helpful and necessary to someone on probation. It’s fair enough in cases that relate directly to alcohol like drunk driving or drug possession. It’s also defendable in cases where substance abuse is an underlying contributor, like domestic violence and assault and battery for example. However, the court has the power to order drug and alcohol testing for any other type of misdemeanor conviction (felony convictions for circuit court).
Does the 86th District Court order drug testing too routinely? Do they carefully consider the merits of each case, or is it simply ordered as a matter of course without much thought? Do the pros outweigh the cons? (There is some burden to the tester, as it is expensive for people who are often going through lots of things while on probation, not to mention the time impositions on people who are needing to work.) Is there a conflict of interest that contractors who are known to the judges make their living conducting these tests that the court can simply order? Could there be a better way? Does expensive testing create incentives to help people manage substance abuse issues, or does it create incentives to keep people testing?
That’s all a matter of opinion.
I’ve heard people suggest that the court orders drug and alcohol testing too much, and for cases where substance abuse doesn’t seem to be a factor. What do you think?