Carol Higgins O'Brien, Commissioner
Our mission is to promote public safety by managing offenders while providing care and appropriate programming in preparation for successful reentry into the community.
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About the Use of Narcotic Detection Dogs
Drugs in prisons contribute to violence, compromise the health and safety of staff and inmates and hamper inmates’ efforts to re-enter society addiction free. The presence of illegal drugs in DOC facilities encourages further criminal behavior and the disciplinary consequences that result impede inmates’ chances for parole and to step down to lower security levels.
As its policies and procedures reflect, The Department of Correction (DOC) is committed to both staff and inmate safety and to giving inmates a meaningful chance to benefit from re-entry and other programs that strengthen their chances for post-release success. In that context and in response to an increase in drug and other contraband-related incidents involving visitors, the DOC will soon employ the use of dogs, trained to detect the presence of drugs, to address this problem.
Important Facts About the Searches:
The dogs, which are Labrador and Golden Retrievers chosen for their inherently gentle natures are referred to as “passive” which is a reference both to how they behave during a search. These dogs are always on a leash and handled by trained personnel, who will walk them past the line of visitors. They have been carefully trained to detect the presence of drug by smell and to alert their handlers to that detection by merely sitting down.
• The dogs do not bark, snarl, paw, or lunge at the individual who alerts them;
• The searches will be random and will not occur every day;
• If the dog alerts to the presence of drugs, the visitor will be asked to step out of line and consent to a search by correctional staff. If the visitor refuses, he or she will not be allowed to visit the inmate and must leave the facility.
• The use of passive, trained canines for these purposes is common practice in correctional settings.
Below is a picture of one of the actual dogs the DOC will use to do this work. Click it to see a 40-second demonstration of the search procedure. Please note that this video is an excerpt from the 5-minute video that has been playing on a loop in the visitor’s lobby for the past several weeks and is subtitled in both English and Spanish. The longer video also details procedures for visitors who have allergies or generally fear contact with dogs. For the full video, click on the YouTube link below.
The Department of Correction wants to be a resource for you so that you are better able to assist your family member or friend through this period of incarceration.