State: About 200 inmates set free in drug lab crisis

Shortly after the announcement that a rogue chemist had allegedly tainted thousands of drug evidence samples, city and state leaders worried that a flood of inmates could be released back into communities.

However, the state’s secretary of public safety and security said yesterday that 195 inmates have been released statewide as of Nov. 10 with 79 of those inmates being released in Boston.

“The number’s a lot less than what we thought,” Secretary Mary Elizabeth Heffernan said in her testimony during an oversight hearing at the State House yesterday.

Former state chemist Annie Dookhan has been charged with allegedly mishandling drug samples at a state lab in Jamaica Plain. State officials estimated that as many as 34,000 criminal drug cases may be impacted and a special group is currently reviewing the cases.

Heffernan also told the committees of lawmakers holding the hearing that there are other difficulties with the fall out.

“Matching services with offenders when they come out continues to be a challenge,” she said of reentry services.

She also said she is seeking more than $3 million for her department to help with a backlog of about 10,000 cases.

Oversight under fire

Alleged rogue chemist Annie Dookhan’s productivity was regularly about 50 percent better than her fellow scientists and it did not drop even though her colleague’s work did after a court decision requiring researchers to testify in drug cases.

Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby testified yesterday that the red flags raised by the high productivity were not properly investigated.

Bigby also said that officials were not made aware of lapses in protocol by Dookhan even though it was discovered by lab managers in June 2011.


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