According to the national litigation and public policy organization, the Innocence Project, at any given time there are an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 innocent people currently locked in a cage in U.S. prisons.
Couple this staggering number with the number of people locked up for non-violent drug possession and the United States looks more like the Gulag of the 1930’s than the Land of the Free.
But how can so many innocent people be locked up, how does the state present evidence, that it doesn’t have, to get a conviction? Well, the folks at the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the U.S., Marijuana Policy Project, made a short video that explains just how easy it is for police to turn an entirely innocent person into a criminal.
During the short video, the researchers demonstrate how easy it is for police to generate a false positive during a field test for drugs.
The group tests over the counter Tylenol PM in a police test kit for cocaine — the test kit says the Tylenol is cocaine.
The group also tests the most popular chocolate in the world, Hershey’s chocolate, for marijuana, it also tests positive.
Perhaps the most disturbing test was when the group put absolutely nothing into the field test kit, and they received a positive result.
The implications associated with wrongfully accusing and then claiming to have evidence of an individual in possession of an illegal substance are formidable — to say the least. Most people are simply unaware of the fact that police test kits are a crapshoot.
According to Forensic Resources:
The director of a lab recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for forensic science excellence has called field drug testing kits “totally useless” due to the possibility of false positives. In laboratory experiments, at least two brands of field testing kits have been shown to produce false positives in tests of Mucinex, chocolate, aspirin, chocolate, and oregano.
In spite of these recommendations and multiple examples of innocent people being incarcerated for their error, police departments across the country continue to employ the use of these “totally useless” kits.
In October, college student John Harrington was thrown in prison after police, with one of these field drug test kits, tested sugar, and came up with a false positive for cocaine.
“Really, I’m really in jail right now for powdered sugar, ” John Harrington thought after it happened.
We’ve also seen the case in which police mistook Jolly Ranchers for meth and jailed an innocent man. Love Olatunijojo, 25, and an unidentified friend purchased Jolly Ranchers at the It’Sugar candy emporium in Coney Island in June of 2013. Several blocks away, cops stopped and searched the friends and mistook the candies for crystal meth. Olatunijojo was then thrown in jail.
In August, we reported on the story of a man who was held in prison for over four months because police falsely identified salt as crystal meth.
And the list goes on…
What does it say about police departments across the country who knowingly use test kits that will implicate innocent people in a crime that they did not commit that will land them in jail?
It is bad enough that the state will kidnap, cage and kill people when they possess a substance deemed illegal by the state. But, when they kidnap, cage and kill people because of their own negligence involved in testing someone’s personal items — they stoop to an entirely new low.