North Country reps want drug dogs at correctional facilities
Saturday, February 1, 2020 - 5:53 pm

On the heels of several corrections officers being treated for possible fentanyl exposure, two North Country state representatives are calling on the state to put drug-sniffing dogs in every state prison.

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, R-Watertown, and Senator Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, announced Friday that they have introduced legislation they say “would crack down on drugs being smuggled into state prisons, effectively strengthening the safety of corrections officers.”

The measure would call on the state to place a drug-sniffing dog in every correctional facility across the state with a minimum of one hundred inmates. Oftentimes, individuals that visit inmates go to great lengths to smuggle controlled substances in to prisoners. Currently, the state has drug-sniffing canines that are rotated at facilities across the state. “Without a drug dog at facilities regularly, it becomes increasingly difficult to cut down on drugs that get smuggled into inmates from a visitor and even via mail,” a statement from Walczyk’s office reads.

The statement came out around the same time that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced New York State Police and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision are being directed to investigate “a toxic substance” found Friday, Jan. 31 at Clinton Correctional Facility.

Cuomo’s office said exposure to the substance sent 11 prison employees to the hospital.

“I’ve talked with Correctional Superintendents across our region who all say drug dogs work. I’m proud to stand alongside Senator Ritchie is in this fight to crack down on drug use in state prisons," Walczyk said in a prepared statement. "When prisoners are getting doped up behind bars, it puts the Corrections Officers and other inmates in danger - look at what just happened in Cape Vincent. From the visitor room to the mail room, there's a tidal wave of drugs passing into the hands of inmates and the State tells our facilities to hold back the wave with a SIEVE. Enough is enough!"

"There have been far too many incidents inside of our prisons directly related to drug use. Whether its an overdose or a drug fueled attack on correctional officers, we must do more to protect everyone inside our prisons,” Ritchie said in a prepared statement. “These dogs can help clean up our facilities and allow them to continue to better rehabilitation efforts. I applaud Assemblyman Walczyk for joining me to ensure we are doing everything in our power to keep our prisons safe and ensure our correctional officers can safely come home to their families every night," Ritchie said.