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Rights group: Prison dogs cruel and degrading

by WILLIAM PETROSKI Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006 at 1:45 PM

The use of attack dogs against prisoners here in the U.S.has been a well-kept secret,"

A human rights group has criticized the Iowa Department of Corrections for allowing the use of trained attack dogs to control state prison inmates.

A report by New York-based Human Rights Watch, titled, "Cruel and

Degrading: The use of dogs for cell extractions in U.S. Prisons," said the attack dogs are being used against convicts in Iowa, Connecticut, South Dakota, Delaware and Utah.

"The entire world has seen the photo of an Abu Ghraib detainee crouched in terror before a snarling dog, but the use of attack dogs against prisoners here in the U.S.has been a well-kept secret," said Jamie Fellner, U.S. Director of Human Rights Watch.

"Longtime corrections professionals were appalled when we told them that guards in some states use attack dogs on prisoners."

The report said the unmuzzled dogs are being used to compel uncooperative inmates to leave their cells. It said dogs may be ordered to bite inmates if they resist.

"Human Rights Watch knows of no other country in the world that authorizes the use of dogs to attack prisoners who will not voluntarily leave their cells," the report said.

Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta said this morning that he had no immediate comment, but he expected to issue a statementlater today.

Gov. Tom Vilack is also expected to issue a statement later today.

Jean Basinger of Des Moines, a member of a prisoner advocacy group known as Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, said today she believes the dogs have been used in a cruel manner against Iowa inmates who have suffered serious bite wounds.

Basinger said she complained to Vilsack's staff in December about abuses involving the dogs in Iowa's prisons and was scolded in response

"They just said, "Well, why do you believe prisoners?" Basinger said.

Iowa has 15 dogs serving state prisons at Fort Madison, Anamosa, Clarinda, Mount Pleasant, Oakdale and Newton. The breeds include Belgian Malinois, Dutch shepherds and German shepherds, which are specially suited to security chores.

Iowa has used dogs on the state prison system. since 1994. The dogs patrol correctional facilities, escort inmates and detect drugs. They can also be used to control disturbances and to assist local law enforcement agencies with a variety of tasks.

The Rev. Carlos Jayne of Des Moines, a retired United Methodist minister who is a lobbyist for the Justice Reform Consortium, said Iowa's use of the prison dogs is outrageous. He said he will press for legislation outlawing the use of the dogs in the state's corrections system.

Five US states allow attack dogs in prisons: HRW report

Jeannie Shawl at 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Five US states permit the use of dogs in prisons to control inmates, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy group] said in a report [text] released Wednesday. Prison systems in Iowa, Connecticut, South Dakota, Utah and Delaware have policies that allow the use of dogs to control inmates in prisons [press release] and remove uncooperative prisoners from their cells. The procedures permit use of unmuzzled dogs and allow guards to order dogs to bite prisoners.

The HRW report says the US is the only known country that authorizes the use of dogs against inmates who refuse to leave their cells. There were 63 cases of dog use in prisons in Iowa during March 2005 to March 2006 and 20 cases in Connecticut during 2005, according to the report. Dogs were rarely used inside prisons in South Dakota, Utah and Delaware. The use of unmuzzled dogs [JURIST report] in questioning detainees at Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] in Iraq prompted two military dog handlers to be convicted [JURIST report] on abuse charges.

U.S.: Attack Dogs Used Against Prisoners

10 Oct 2006 16:29:24 GMT

Source: Human Rights Watch

Printable view | Email this article | RSS [-] Text [+]

(New York, October 11, 2006) ? Five state prison systems in the United States permit the use of aggressive, unmuzzled dogs to terrify and even attack prisoners in efforts to remove them from their cells, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report. The 20-page report, "Cruel and Degrading: The Use of Dogs for Cell Extractions in U.S. Prisons," publicly reveals this practice for the first time. It also shows that the practice is not only cruel, but wholly unnecessary as there are safer, more humane alternatives that corrections officers can use ? and most across the country do use ? to remove prisoners from their cells.

In Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, South Dakota and Utah, if a prisoner will not voluntarily leave his cell when ordered to do so, officers may bring a trained attack dog to the cell front to terrify the prisoner into compliance. If the prisoner still refuses, the dog is let into the cell to bite the prisoner. While the prisoner tries to fend off the dog, correctional officers place restraints on him and then remove him from the cell.

"The entire world has seen the photo of an Abu Ghraib detainee crouched in terror before a snarling dog, but the use of attack dogs against prisoners here in the U.S. has been a well-kept secret," said Jamie Fellner, director of the U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch. "Longtime corrections professionals were appalled when we told them that guards in some states use dogs on prisoners."

The state prison systems in Connecticut and Iowa frequently use dogs for cell extractions. In Utah, they have been used extremely rarely. In Delaware and South Dakota, although state corrections policies permit the use of dogs for cell extractions, prison officials say they are not in fact used for this purpose.

Corrections officials in Connecticut and Iowa insist the use of attack dogs is justified because they deter prisoner misconduct and reduce staff injuries. But 45 other states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons reject their views.

The Arizona and Massachusetts prison systems formerly used dogs for cell extractions. In early 2006, both states ended the practice after a review of their use of force policies. The commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Kathleen Dennehy, said that there are other ways to get an inmate to follow orders "than sending in an animal to rip his flesh."

Dogs are frequently used in the United States and elsewhere to patrol prison perimeters and to search for contraband.

"We know of no other country in the world where officers use attack dogs to remove prisoners from their cells," said Fellner. "State prison officials in these five states should adopt the more humane methods that their colleagues across the country already use."

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