K-9 in training to detect drugs in prison

Published: Mar. 16, 2017 at 4:11 PM AKDT
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The Department of Corrections has been working with a drug detecting dog named Marley, since 2015. This spring he will be joined by a new dog, from Holland.

The DOC says it has seen an influx of a variety of drugs behind prison walls.

“They are large numbers, but small packages,” said Sherrie Daigle, supervising investigator with the Professional Conduct Unit.

In late February, the Department of Corrections staff at the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility noticed something wasn’t quite right about a pair of shoes brought in for one of the inmates.

“The sole had been ripped up and glued back down,” said Daigle.

Inside the sole were small packages, Daigle says, which contained black tar heroin, methamphetamine and suboxone.

“Once the drugs are introduced into the facilities, then there’s multiple things that can happen. There is strong arming for ways to get those drugs. There are fights, severe assaults and there are OD’s,” Daigle said.

She says prisoners have an incredible ability to hide drugs, once they’re inside prisons. So that’s where drug-detecting dogs come in.

“It’s extremely important that we use all the tools that we have," Daigle said. "And the K-9 has been an additional tool that has really helped in that effort.”

An additional detection and deterrent tool is being trained at the Palmer Correctional Center. 16-month old Koda has begun a six-week academy, where he’ll learn how to find heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. He’s a Belgian Malinois, purchased for roughly $6,500, from Holland.

“The fact that people try to use creative ways to kind of mask that odor, it’s very difficult to mask an odor for a dog to detect that,” said Brian Zeisel, the statewide canine coordinator with the Alaska State Troopers.

Three other dogs in training will be used by AST. And Koda is expected to complete his training and be certified, by the end of May.