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Privacy breakdown versus the Whizzinator

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By now, plenty of government and corporate decision makers grew up when privacy rights were already much more nostalgia than anything else. Too many people under forty have endured school metal detectors; rampant observation cameras in retail outlets and restaurants, and on the streets (only thirty years ago, such technology was too cumbersome and expensive to be rampant); limited privacy on the Internet; reverse tracking of their movements through their cellphone and GPS usage; and rampant drug testing even to obtain a job as a store cashier.

Even twenty years ago, I listened in deep discomfort as a then-recent college graduate told me that to participate in team sports, she was required not only to provide a urine test(s), but to be observed totally naked when providing the urine sample, lest she be hiding someone else’s urine somewhere. She seemed to have very much accepted that this is the way life is, as if to do in Rome what Romans do; but this was not always the way things were, and if our society is to have democratic protections, we should be participating in the making of society’s rules and norms from the get-go.  

Counter the foregoing college athlete’s acquiescence to drug testing against the American soldier who faced court-martial proceedings for refusing to be observed giving a urine sample. She had no problem giving a sample, but was unwilling to be watched, unclothed, while emitting human waste. Her response about her ability to deal with incarceration over her refusal was that she had a stack of National Geographics waiting to be read, anyway. (Beware that civilian jails likely will only allow reading material that is purchased from the commissary or mailed from the publisher or distributor).

Enter Colorado parolee Chad M. Thomas, who allegedly and unsuccessfully tried to fool the mandatory parolee urine testing by arriving with a Whizzinator, which at once is a male organ prosthetic available in various flesh tones, plus a contraption to keep clean urine (obtained from drug-free people) heated to body temperature. Were drug testing for parolees, probationers and pretrial supervisees private, the prosthetic part of the Whizzinator would have been unnecessary. Instead, Mr. Thomas’s parole agent apparently felt there was monkey business amiss. Unfortunately for Mr. Thomas, he allegedly offered the parole agent a bribe to let him use and discard the Whizzinator, which elevated the problem from a potential return to prison for a parole violation, to a felony charge of bribery.

Had Mr. Thomas merely provided his own urine sample -— even if it would test dirty —- while armed with a lawyer to advocate that he was back on the road with drug education (of course, said advocacy is not always provided from public funds for indigent defendants until closer in time to the parole violation hearing), his situation would not be so dire.