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Man Risking Jail Over Drug Testing Data

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The owner of a local medical testing lab was due in court on Thursday to face potential contempt charges for refusing to provide more detailed results of random drug tests on convicted criminals.

Warren Cooper said he's willing to go to jail to protect the 700 men and women who undergo random drug tests every month.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports that probation officials have been trying to get more detailed information on negative drug tests.

Cooper said he's worried that more detailed information could be used to change those negative results to positive ones.

So is "John," a recovering crack addict who is on probation for burglary and who's trying to get his life back together.

He said he started using marijuana at the age of 14, then progressed to acid, then cocaine.

John has been assigned to a probation officer for the Cook County courts and is required to undergo random drug testing.

So far, John has always tested negative for drugs, but that's based on a system where the labs only tell the courts if a person is positive or negative.

Now the courts want the lab to provide the raw numbers for everyone who tests negative, which might indicate a trace of drugs.

"You can get a trace of any type of drugs just by anything," John said. "If you touch a surface that has drugs on it. … So I mean, I think it's really wrong."

Cooper said it that legal medications also can cause false positives or other interference with a random drug test.

Cooper owns the lab that conducts all the drug tests for Cook County. He said that probation officers at the courts are the ones asking for negative numbers.

Cooper said he's refusing for two reasons.

One, he said, is because the probation officers don't understand the science behind drug testing. And two is that anyone who fails can be sent back to jail or into drug treatment.

"Then the probation officer doesn't have to worry about keeping up with the file," Cooper said. "It lightens their case load."

CBS 2 looked into testing procedures in other counties and could not find any examples of anyone using the raw numbers of negative drug tests.

Cooper has been ordered by the courts to provide "the actual results of the test" or be found in contempt. So far he has refused.

"I'm willing to go to jail for this. It's protecting the innocent," he said.

The supervisor of the adult drug probation office at the Cook County Circuit Court denied that his office is asking for the negative numbers just to lighten their case load.

He said Cook County judges and others who determine the fate of anyone on probation want the raw numbers to do their jobs properly.

The Illinois Policy Institute has said it is investigating the practices of the Cook County courts' probation office.

The judge who ordered Cooper to provide the raw data declined to answer any questions.


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