August 6, 2010
Posted: 04:58 PM ET
This is a LKL Web Exclusive by Richard Subia, Deputy Director, Division of Adult Institutions at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The opinions expressed below are his own and we welcome your comments.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has been using dogs to find narcotics for several years.
The biggest obstacle to starting the K-9 p program was money. With California's budget problems, there was none. Sgt. Conrad knew he wanted to use the Belgian Malinois breed because of their excellent focus and personalities, so he contacted the Belgian Malinois Rescue group. They put him in touch with Debbie Skinner, a nationally known breeder and part of the rescue group. In February 2009, she suggested 5-year-old Caesar to Wayne. For just a small pet adoption fee of $300, Caesar became the first dog in the contraband detection program.
In August 2009, Drako was added to the program based on Caesar's success. Drako was donated to the program by Debbie at no cost. His training began in September 2009. He has been in service for nearly a year.
Training for these dogs is managed by Sgt. Conrad at the Richard A. McGee Training Center in Galt, California. The center conducts the basic correctional officer and parole agent training academies. Each dog much successfully pass the department's 160-hour detection training. The dogs are trained to detect marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, tobacco and cell phones.
CDCR is expanding the contraband detection program. Our goal is to eventually place a dog at every state prison.
We now have two dogs, Nikki and Deimos, at Avenal State Prison. Brix and Enos were placed at the California Institution for Men in May 2010.
In July 2010, Sadie and Viking were placed at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison-Corcoran and Scout and Klippe were placed at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility.
Ida, Kohl, Blue Zen, Shelby, Max, and Mango are some of the dogs in training now. CDCR's contraband detection dogs have peace officer status. They have badges and IDs and each dog has a handler who is also a sworn peace officer.
Dogs currently in training will be placed at Folsom State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, California Correctional Center, Salinas Valley State Prison, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison and Ironwood State Prison.
CDCR has managed to run this program at virtually no cost. Training, which can cost around $4,100 per dog, is handled in-house by Sgt. Conrad, a certified instructor. A dog for law enforcement use typically costs $7,300, but all the dogs in CDCR's canine program have been donated by rescue groups and individuals.
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