August 6, 2010

Prison dogs on the hunt for drugs and cell phones

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.
Richard is a guest TONIGHT on Larry King Live.

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.
But  with the ban on tobacco products and the growing problem of contraband cell phones, I wanted to see if dogs could be used to find tobacco and cell phones. I contacted Sgt. Wayne Conrad and asked for his help. Sgt. Conrad handles CDCR's dog training program.  Once he was able to determine that cell phones did indeed have a unique odor, he developed a training plan.

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.

Filed under: Larry King Live • LKL Web Exclusive

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Smith in Oregon   August 6th, 2010 5:15 pm ET

Some of the few video's that made it out to the American public show Private Prison contractors use guard dogs to harass, torture and belittle Prisoners in their care as they wish and without impunity nor fear of litigation against them.

America has the largest prison population on the entire population. A literal breeding ground of hatred and racism. And as the prison population is filled with political criminals who stood up against American injustice and were thrown into prison as a result, American taxpayers are entirely on the hook to pay 50,000+ for each and every prisoner per year of their sentencing.

Republican Potty'ticians for decades have pushed non-violent offenders into lengthy prison sentences which has increased the percentage of American taxpayer funding ever higher. The GOP fights, obstructs, filibuster 10,000 dollar College Grants for America's teen's and yet are fully on board for locking non-violent offenders into prison where taxpayers are forced to pay 50,000+ dollars per year.

America's vast prison system is a toxic swamp that needs to be drained before it surpasses all other State and Federal domestic spending.

Lucy   August 6th, 2010 7:32 pm ET

I'm all in favor of programs that give inmates training that might lead to possible jobs/careers when they're released.

As a dog lover, I can't think of anything better than spending time training and loving a dog.

Shame on our country for the prison-industrial complex.

terry   August 7th, 2010 12:50 am ET


Luis B. Rosario   August 7th, 2010 12:52 am ET

In most USA prisons prison guards are worst than the prisoners
in cmmitting atrocities against indefensible prisoners . They
harassed prisoners until the prisoners break then 4 or 5 C.O.s
gang up together, take the prisoner out to a lonely alley or cell
where they assault the prisoner. Then the put him back in the
cell. Prisoners are many times afraid to talk because retaliation
by C.O.s is rampant and they get good cover from their partners
and supervisors. Many guards have been caught with contraband
(dealing drugs) in many prisons. Prisoners alone are not to
blame for a very poor prison system.

fay   August 7th, 2010 5:43 pm ET

Sooo.... true

Luis B. Rosario   August 7th, 2010 2:50 am ET

@Smith in Oregon
Most state prison guards are not given a psychological test
during intial evaluation and job screening and most of them
join the "code blue" where they do as the see(copycats).
Most of them become hardened, heartless, souless because
that is the way that they are accepted by their peers. These
prison guards are worst than the guards at Abu Ghabi and
at Guantanamo. The federal government went out of their way
to accomodate those prisoners because of world publicity
but they couldn't care less for our yound men and women
going to prison and becoming worst than when they went in
because the prison guards taught them how to hate .
The frist example of how prison guards treat people is when
you visit the prisoner. Most guards treat the visitor the same
way that they treat the prisoner. Second experience is when
send supplies via mail to the prisoner. Prisoners received
perishables (food that will spoil ) 5 days after relatives
send them "express mail." When vendors send prisoners
merchandise ordered either by relatives or by the inmate,
the merchandise is held in the mail room between 7 to
14 days for no reason just to harassed the inmate and to
show the inmate who is boss in the prison. The guards
verbally abused the inmates worst than in "boot camp"
and if the prisoner breaks( become upset) they will gang
up on him, beat him up, write him up and place him/her
on "lockdown(isolation) until the guards feel like he is
broken( like a wild horse). Basic medical needs are mostly
denied or delay. Emegency treatment is assigned to a
couple of doctors for one prison section (about 60 to 75
prisoners-the size of a batallion) and only one head nurse
decides and one assistant will decide who can see the
doctor. You would think that prisoners have it good.?
Ask prison guards. Sometimes there are 5 or more
prison guards seating idle(doing nothing but chatting)
earning $30 per hour. In some remote prisons for
medium security and high security prisoners . The prisons
are hundreds of miles(sometimes 4 50 miles) from where
they lived or where the relatives live. Those prisons are
manned by local guards who all grew up together. They
grew up with the superintendent, with the mayor and the
police chief. It is very difficult (if at all) to bring one of these
guards up on charges of brutality and prisoner abuse.
Do you think that I'm exaggerating. I wish that was the case.

fay   August 8th, 2010 8:34 am ET

You are so right. I too have witnessed all the examples you give. Respect is given from where it is received it is a two way street. Inmares aren't going to automatically respect an officer just because he has on a uniform. However put inmate clothes on anyone and the thought process automatically goes to scum. Not saying all officers are abusive but a whole lot are and this behavior is condoned in the system so how do we expect inmates to react? Look at some of the comments being made – who is going to believe an inmate? Nobody. Their family is also treated like trash just because I have never been arrested and have a good job and degree but have instantly been treated like garbage just for visiting. So bottom line its not just the inmates who can be disrespectful.treat others as you want to be treated isn't that the golden rule? Hmmm..

alicewan   August 7th, 2010 2:17 pm ET

its about time they got some more dogs. i am a doctor who works in ca prisons and i asked why there were not more searches with dogs what with the large amount of drugs, etc sneaked in. At the time the person said that it wouldn't look good to the public. But after seeing a show on dog detection at rikers island in new york i had to wonder what the real reason was. Of course, money! it is a pity because these dogs pay for themselves and what with all that they waste daily in state government (they really do!) it seemed a shame that they did not take advantage of this solution. It's lives here, guys die of overdoses or fights associated with building up drug debts on the yard they cannot pay. So glad to see they are takiing more advantage of this great way to deal with contraband in prison.

Pray4Peace   August 8th, 2010 1:32 pm ET

Inmates who maintain contact with their families are more likely to survive the horrific prison experience and become responsible citizens when they are released. Of course, we don't want cell phones used for bad reasons, but we need more reasonably priced phone calls. The prison calls are very expensive for families who can often least afford them.

The prison dog program in Kansas allows inmates to train dogs that are then adopted to loving families. Everyone wins. We need more such programs. Generally, inmates are not allowed to have pets.

It would be difficult to manage animals hygine and such within cells.
However, we all need to be wanted and needed. Post Traumanic Stress military victims are advised to get pets. Somehow inmates, many of whom are mentally ill, should have an opportunity to nuture an animal.

Poster Lucy has it right, "I'm all in favor of programs that give inmates training that might lead to possible jobs/careers when they're released.

As a dog lover, I can't think of anything better than spending time training and loving a dog.

Shame on our country for the prison-industrial complex.

Luis B. Rosario   August 9th, 2010 3:21 am ET

@Fay Great comment.
Some states prison wardens allow phone unscrupulous
phone company vendors to charge exorbitant prices to
inmates and relatives and the cost may range from $2.50
to $4.50 per 20 minute plus $1.05 for the initial call plus
$7.95 fee for any money deposited on the account with
your credit card.
V Connect Prison Phone service is one of the cheapest phone
service for inmates. Check V on the internet
to see if it serves your area or if it can bid service for your area
Talk to your local politicans and petition for lower phone rates.
Inmates who communitcate with their relatives and authorized
callers are in a better mental state while they are in prison
and as they prepare to leave the prison system.

T   August 9th, 2010 2:25 pm ET

First of all let me say that I really enjoyed this article. It's become far too commonplace to see the prison system getting its but whupped in the media because it doesn't know how to effectively market itself. I'm glad to see them drawing attention to the positive things that they do for a change since everyone always seems to focus on the negatives.

That being said, how many of the people that have posted actually read the article? The comments section is not a forum for whatever general feelings you may have, however ill-informed, on the prison system; it is a place for comments that are related to the above-posted article.

CO   August 9th, 2010 3:24 pm ET

correctional officers, not "guards", are in fact given a psychological screening, background investigation and are great at what they do. some of these people posting on here obviously dont know any, have never been in a correctional setting and know NOTHING about prisons and everyday prison life. COs do not belittle, nor harm inmates that aren't causing harm to other inmates. we simply use enough force to stop the threat. We do not use unnecessary force simply to our benefit or amusement. inmates are so spoiled it's not even funny. They get full medical, three full meals with GREAT food (in which the COs have to eat while training at the academy), have television with FREE CABLE, and whatever else they're little puny hearts desire all because california is too liberal. Inmates should be taken out into the fields and made to work and collect their own food or sent to iraq to fight the war instead of our innocent soldiers. I'm tired of people feeling sorry for these trolls, maybe they should come to your house and burglarize it or murder someone in your family for you to wake up. oh and by the way that person that murdered your relative or significant other....yeah he's laying in his bed right now watching Oprah and getting full medical without having to pay jack....yeah they have it SOOOOOOOOOOO bad.

fay   August 10th, 2010 7:14 am ET

Yea u r suppose to use reasonable and necessary force but we all know that isn't always the case. Look at the news. Not saying all co's are corrupt but some are. Maybe in some stares inmates fair better than others but that is certainly not the case in Florida. Inmates pay a co-pay overtime they go to medical which most times they end up with an aspirin as the view for everything. I know personally of an inmate that was hurt rating on the rec yard vomiting blood and the co's it gave him a mop bucket to vomit in, it wasn't until after I called the prison the guy received actual medical care and turned out he had ruptured spleen. So state of the art medical care- I think not. If they don't have someone on the outs to speak up for them anything can happen. In Florida they don't have cable tv or even air condition for that matter and everyone knows how hot it is in Florida. The family is the one that suffers to pay for phone calls or canteen so they too pay the price. Not saying inmates don't deserve to be where they are but tell the truth. I have personal experience as my husband has been in Florida doc for the last 21 years so think I know a little! And no he didn't kill or rape anyone it is for a robbery WITHOUT a weapon, I can see both sides because I'm tired of zero.g people who have commited murder or rape to free before him!

Pray4Peace   August 10th, 2010 11:14 pm ET

If poster CO is a correctional officer, perhaps it is time for a job change. He (or she) is bitter toward the people he was hired to protect, rehabilitate, and of course, make follow prison rules.

There are good guards who perform their jobs well. And, there are abusive guards who hide their cruelty behind prison walls. A phycologist told me he tested correctional officers for mental fitness before they were hired. He was never allowed to test them again once they had worked the emotionally difficult job. Perhaps CO can tell us if correctional officers are regularly screened for mental fitness where he works.

In California the prison medical care is so horrific the Federal government had to take it over.

California prisons are stuffed at over double capacity–people sleep in bunks stacked three-high in areas that were meant to be used for rehabilitation. We all need work and inmates want any prison job they can get. Because of the overcrowding there are not nearly enough jobs to go around.

Criminal Justice, unfair bail bond policies, broken parole systems, unreasonably long sentences, the three-strikes law that does not work as voters intended and actually sends people to prison for 25 years for stealing a pizza (at $50,000 a year cost to tax payers), and other tough-on-crime turned dumb-on-crime policies are wasting salvageable lives and bankrupting us.

Dodie   August 14th, 2010 1:33 pm ET

@Luis B. Rosario

You are very knowledgeable regarding the prison system. Thank you for the information. My knowledge of prisons is minimal at best; however, your post is eloquent and beautifully stated.

Tru-Talk   August 18th, 2010 4:14 am ET

@CO: After having worked in the CA prisonsystem for over 21 years, I have come to know the truth about what actually happens behind the walls of our country's worst-managed corectional department. First of all, Inmates are NOT coddled; they are deprived of precisely what they were sentenced to be deprived of: their freedom. They are not incarcerated for punishment, they are incarcerated AS punishment. Inmates spend longer sentences in CA than in any other state. Since 1999 CA has virtually eeliminated every program even remotely aimed at rehabilitation, yet the gates continue to disgorge inmates back into society. Most of these men re-enter our communities directly from one of CA's many "war zones". Race riots, homicides, gang brutality, and-yes, abuse by the guards- are not only the norm, but the expected occurrences.

CA boasts a 74% recidivism rate.. Given the population is double capacity (130,000) that means approx. 100,000 are released every year.

Who would you like standing behind you in the supermarket? the man who just left the warzone after 10years without any treatment for his violent tendencies and drug addiction, or the man who has?

Tru-Talk   August 18th, 2010 4:30 am ET

There is no simple fix for the problem, but ignoring it and ignorantly wishing for it to go away will never accomplish anything. There are several options that have been tried, and all have been defeated by the powerful guards union. Prison guards are civil servants, and unionized, they, like the rest of us, want joob security and the protections unions provide. However, there is a conflict of interest here. A union has two primary purposes: protect its members, and expand its membership. The only way to expand is to build more prisons and pack them all to bursting.
Prison guards are by no means the root or cause of the problem: the main issue is the underlying correctional philosophy of punishment without treatment.
CA penal code states tht the purpose of incarceration is punishment. For decades they have attempted to punish men back into line. For decades this has failed, and the biggest beneficiaries of the failure?
the prison guards. they need to be de-unionized beffore any actual change can happen.
There are solutions, if CA taxpayers take action and require that the billions of their tax money be spent in actually provviding opporrtunities for real drug treatment and violence prevention, and othr PROVEN methods of reducing recidivism.
go to for more info.

meme   August 18th, 2010 9:01 pm ET

Very well said. Thanks for telling the truth from the inside! Kudos to you.

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