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K-9 unit trains dogs to find alcohol in correctional facilities

By Lowell Melser

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    HAGERSTOWN, Maryland (WBAL) — The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services K-9 unit has become the first correctional K-9 unit in America to train its dogs to find alcohol in correctional facilities.

WBAL-TV 11 News got to see a demonstration Friday.

Throughout history, the alcohol in prisons has always been an issue for security guards in Maryland. In June, they started the K-9, alcohol detection program which just became very successful.

Different breeds of the K-9 police dogs have been trained to seek out homemade alcohol in Maryland’s prisons.

“The dogs are trained to detect the odor of alcohol, both methanol and ethanol, both substances are dangerous in our presence for obvious reasons,” said Maj. Mark Flynn, commander of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services K-9 Alcohol unit.

Flynn told 11 News methanol and ethanol produced in prisons can cause overdoses, chaos and even death.

Because of COVID-19, visitations are down and fewer illegal drugs are finding their way into the state’s prisons.

“So, the inmates are producing and consuming more and more alcohol so that’s why it became a much bigger issue,” Flynn said.

The idea of the program started back in April, and in early June, the first dog was brought into service.

There are now four dogs working around the state with more planned. About half of the dogs being trained right now are shelter dogs that couldn’t find homes.

“These are the dogs that rip up your couch, jump all over the place and they’re too rambunctious and they can’t be rehomed, so these rescuers call us and say, “Is there any chance this dog could be a police dog,’ and we give him a job,” Flynn said.

Watching the dogs in action, they can do in seconds what it would take staff members hours to do alone.

“They were able to locate that, were able to get that item out of circulation quickly. If we were using staff to search those lockers, we’d still be there,” DPSCS Secretary Robert Green said.

Organizers of the K-9 alcohol detection program said because of its success, they are looking into training more dogs at more facilities around the country and around the world.

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