Panting party crashers: CDCR expands drug-sniffing dogs in state prisons

Number of contraband-hunting K9s will nearly double this year

There’s about to be a lot more smiling in prison—it just won’t be human smiles.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is expanding a program that has furry, four-legged investigators sniffing out narcotics and illegal cellphones inside its prisons. But officials say if people are envisioning snarling attack dogs, they’re way off.

“These dogs are totally non-aggressive,” said CDCR spokesman Ike Dodson. “All they care about is getting to play with their toy after they’ve sniffed out and signaled on contraband. When they come to work each morning, they just see it as play time and they go nuts.”

Dodson told SN&R his department purchased eight new Labrador retrievers at the start of October. Each one has been paired up with a correctional officer, who are finishing a special academy in Stockton.

State corrections officials decided to expand the program after an independent UC Berkeley report found trained dogs to be one of the most effective tools for uncovering prison contraband.

According to CDCR records covering the last three yeas, K9 teams have found 3,774 cellphones, two pounds of cocaine, 192 grams of hash oil, roughly 10 pounds of heroin, 126 pounds of marijuana, 20 pounds of methamphetamine and 470 pounds of tobacco.

Dodson stressed that those seizures were achieved by the current 49 teams. Each prison in the state will get two additional teams under the expansion. “We should have 75 teams by the end of the fiscal year,” Dodson said. “This is going to be one of the biggest programs nationwide for corrections.”