OIG Releases New Report
November 30, 2023
Albany, NY

OIG Releases New Report

Inspector General Lucy Lang speaking from behind a podium. The American and New York State flags are behind her.

ALBANY, NY – Earlier today, New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang released a report detailing defects in both the manufacturing and administration of drug tests used by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to detect the presence of contraband in correctional facilities that resulted in the disciplining of more than 2,000 incarcerated individuals across the state based upon unreliable evidence. These disciplinary sanctions included solitary confinement, delays in parole eligibility, and suspension of family visitation, among others.

From 2016 to August 2020, as the opioid epidemic surged both nationally and in New York’s prisons, a test  manufactured by Sirchie Finger Print Laboratories called NARK II was used in DOCCS facilities due to its unique ability to identify hard to detect drugs. In August of 2020, DOCCS notified the Inspector General that the NARK II test had inconsistent instructions, potentially causing false-positive test results. 

Notably, per instructions from its manufacturer, the NARK II test is designed to serve merely as a presumptive test, producing preliminary results requiring laboratory confirmation. Despite this instruction, for the four years the test was in circulation, DOCCS used a positive result on an unconfirmed NARK II drug test as the basis for the imposition of discipline.   

Five days after receiving the initial notification from DOCCS, the Inspector General advised DOCCS to stop taking any disciplinary action against incarcerated individuals for a positive Nark II test result until confirmatory testing by an independent laboratory could be obtained, and to begin taking remedial actions. DOCCS immediately complied with both recommendations, including reversing and expunging the disciplinary records of incarcerated individuals who had been sanctioned based on such tests.

Following a full investigation, the Inspector General substantiated that the instructions provided by the NARK II manufacturer were inconsistent, contradictory and, in some instances, inaccurate and that the manufacturer failed to identify this issue or advise DOCCS as to the existence of revised or updated instructions. The investigation also determined that in addition to failing to obtain confirmation of presumptively positive NARK II test results, DOCCS staff administering the tests failed to follow protocols to prevent misidentification of contraband or cross-contamination of samples, undermining the accuracy of even the preliminary results. 

“Lack of integrity in the systems administered to New Yorkers behind bars implicates all of us,” said New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang. “This investigation and the subsequent policy changes and record expungements represent one step closer to ensuring the level of integrity we should all expect and demand from the State.”

“Illicit drugs pose a serious threat to the safety and security of those who work and live in correctional settings, and while the detection and removal of these substances is imperative, it must be done with accuracy and fairness,” said New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Daniel F. Martuscello III. “To that end, we reported the potential for false-positive field test results to the Inspector General in 2020, resulting in the subsequent investigation, and have since made improvements that align with the report’s recommendations. I commend the Office of the Inspector General for its steadfast investigation and pursuit of fairness across New York State.”

The Inspector General thanked members of her team for their work on this investigation and today’s report, including George Frany, Attorney-in-Charge of DOCCS Matters, Carmen Frangella, Deputy Chief of Investigations for the Upstate Region, and Senior Investigative Counsel & Director of Report Writing Jonathan Masters. The Inspector General also expressed her appreciation to the Department of Corrections, particularly members of its Office of Special Investigations, for their partnership in investigating this matter and for promptly addressing the issues detailed within today’s report.

Read OIG’s complete report HERE, download included photos HERE, and follow the office’s work @NewYorkStateIG.