Policy and Practice in Seven States
Human Rights Watch has identified seven states that have allowed the use of dogs in cell extractions: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Utah. As noted at the outset, Arizona and Massachusetts prohibited such use of dogs in 2006.
In 1997, Terry Stewart, then director of the states department of corrections testified in front of the state legislature that there had been 41 staff injuries during the 225 cell extractions conducted that year. Stewart explained that he was authorizing the training of dogs to conduct cell extractions in order to protect staff.13 A former correctional officer and dog handler who worked for the Arizona Department of Corrections while Terry Stewart was the director said he used to use dogs for cell extractions approximately two or three times per month.14 After the current director, Dora Schriro, took office in 2003, she sought to reduce the use of cell extractions in general and the number of cell extractions with dogs dropped dramatically. There were three cell extractions with dogs in 2004 and 2005.15 Director Schriro instituted a moratorium on the use of dogs for cell extractions in 2005 pending the results of a complete review of the states use of force policies.16 On March 29, 2006 she made the moratorium permanent with a new departmental instruction prohibiting the use of dogs for cell extractions.17
The Connecticut Department of Correction began using dogs for cell extractions in 1985. They were first used at Somers State Prison as a visible deterrent, to assist staff and provide a non-lethal response to inmate generated violence within the facilities particularly when the inmate presents a high risk of injury to the public, to staff or other inmates.18 Under current policy, dogs may be used in a cell extraction when verbal intervention has been exhausted and chemical agent cannot be used.19 The only statistics the Department of Correction provided Human Rights Watch on the frequency with which dogs have been used in cell extractions were for 2005. In that year, staff brought dogs onto the cell blocks for cell extractions twenty times. In eleven of these incidents, the dogs were directly involved in the cell extractions. In the other nine, the dogs were not sent into the cell.20 It is not clear whether Connecticut permits the use of dogs for cell extractions when the prisoner is mentally ill. A Department of Corrections employee told Human Rights Watch that he couldnt imagine we would use dogs for cell extractions of the mentally ill. There is too much potential for things to go wrong because you cannot assume someone who is mentally ill will act in a rational manner.21 According to the departments public affairs office, however, dogs may be used on prisoners with mental illness after a direct mental health intervention has failed and the inmate is considered to be a threat to staff or his/her self.22
Under the rules of the Delaware Department of Corrections, dogs may be used during cell extractions. According to a state Department of Corrections media relations officer, no dogs have been used in a cell extraction in the past twenty years.23
The Iowa Department of Corrections began using dogs for cell extractions in 1994. The idea came from an officer who knew police forces were using dogs, and who thought corrections might be able to use dogs effectively as well.24 He suggested the idea to a warden, and the use of dogs took hold. As of March of 2006, Iowa had fifteen canine teams (or fifteen dogs, each paired with a handler). Between March of 2005 and March of 2006, dogs were brought next to a cell 63 times for possible use in cell extractions. In 48 of these incidents, according to a prison official, the presence of the dog changed the prisoners attitude so that force did not need to be used. In ten of the incidents, even though dogs were brought to the prisoners cell, officers used other means of physical force to gain compliance from a prisoner. In five incidents, the dog was sent into the cell and bit the prisoner.25
Dogs will not be used for cell extractions in Iowa if the inmate is mentally ill: The department has determined that when we know, when were aware a person has a history of mental illness, canines dont get used in that situation . . . We dont want to aggravate a situation, if the person acting out isnt going to comprehend the meaningfulness of the dogs present.26
Dogs had been used by the Massachusetts Department of Correction for extractions and other control purposes for more than fifteen years when the practice ended in 2006. Before a dog could even be brought onto a cell block in Massachusetts, the Commissioner of the Department had to be contacted for approval. In the two years prior to the rule prohibiting their use, dogs were brought onto the cell block four times, and were actually sent into the cell twice.27 A videotape of one of those instances is available on the Human Rights Watch website. According to his lawyer, the inmate who was attacked by a dog in the videotape is mentally ill, and had been bitten by dogs prior to the incident in question.28 On April 25, 2006 Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy issued a statement indicating that dogs would no longer be authorized for cell extractions.
The South Dakota Department of Corrections has one dog trained to conduct cell extractions. According to the departments public information office, the dog has never been used for this purpose.29
Utah has trained and deployed dogs in prison for over a decade for patrol work, apprehension, and detection. According to an officer with the Special Operations Unit, which handles the dogs, in the past fifteen years they have only been used twice for cell extractions.30
13 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Robert D. Myers, General Counsel, Arizona Department of Corrections, March 20, 2006.
14 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a former Arizona Department of Corrections employee who requested anonymity, November 28, 2005. The Department of Corrections was unable to locate statistics on cell extractions or cell extractions with dogs prior to 2003. Director Schriro took office in August, 2003.
16 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Robert D. Myers, General Counsel, Arizona Department of Corrections, March 20, 2006.
17 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Robert D. Myers, General Counsel, Arizona Department of Corrections, May 2, 2006.
18 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Brian Garnett, Connecticut Department of Correction, Response to Questions from Human Rights Watch, December 20, 2005. On file with Human Rights Watch.
19 Ibid. The use of dogs is governed by Administrative Directives 6.5, Use of Force and 6.11, Canine Unit, available at www.ct.gov/doc.
20 Ibid. A dog was also used to apprehend an escaped inmate in 2005. In addition, according to Garnett, there were two incidents in which individuals were inadvertently bitten by dogs. One involved an unruly inmate, the other a staff member who, while responding to an incident, accidentally came in contact with the dog.
21 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with official in the Connecticut Department of Correction who requested anonymity, November 28, 2005.
22 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Brian Garnett, Connecticut Department of Correction, Response to Questions from Human Rights Watch, December 20, 2005.
23 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Beth Welch, Media Relations Unit, Delaware Department of Corrections, January 2006.
24 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with John Fayram, acting warden of Anamosa State Penitentiary, Iowa, March 14, 2006.
26 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with John Fayram, acting warden of Anamosa State Penitentiary, Iowa, December 5, 2005.
27 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Kathleen Dennehy, Commissioner, and James Bender, Deputy Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Correction, December 16, 2005.
28 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lauren Petit, an attorney with Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, December 5, 2005.
29 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dave Schiefen, South Dakota Department of Corrections, January 2006.
30 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mike Knolls, an officer in the Special Operations Unit of the Utah Department of Corrections, October 26, 2006.