State police K-9 units recruited to sniff out drugs in prisons


The Vermont State Police and the Vermont Department of Corrections have signed an agreement to have regular and on-call K-9 drug detection teams in Vermont prisons to help stem the flow of drugs to inmates.

The parties this month signed a memorandum of understanding committing up to $25,000 for one year of searches throughout the state's correctional facility system.

The visits will take place "multiple times a year" in each of the seven state prisons, DOC Director of Facilities Michael Touchette said, though he declined to specify exactly how often the searches would occur. Touchette said DOC finds contraband substances about once a week.

The department did not have recent figures on drugs reported in the state's prison system. However, in 2012, the most recent data available, there were 78 incidents in which buprenorphine was recovered, four recoveries of cocaine, 10 of heroin, 35 of marijuana and 30 of various prescription pills.

In 2012, state police investigated 35 reported incidents of "transportation of alcohol, tobacco or regulated drugs into places of detention," according to a news release. The high prices paid for illicit substances in prisons keeps the supply fairly steady, said Capt. Tim Clouatre, assistant state field force commander for the Vermont State Police.

The agreement is not necessarily indicative of a growing drug problem in the state's jails, officials said.

Most often, Touchette said, drugs enter correctional facilities through the mail. Buprenorphine strips, which are about the size of a postage stamp, are particularly easy to conceal.

"Contraband certainly comes through visiting, it can be launched over a fence or folks in the community anticipating going to jail sometimes plan to bring things in with them," he said.

In April, the Associated Press reported a woman attempted to bring buprenorphine into a Rutland prison by attaching it to her one-year-old baby.


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