Drug Dogs Could Soon Sniff Prison Visitors

By Seth Ferranti 06/21/13

Dogs could help keep drugs out of prisons. But will they also keep friends and family out?

Will drug dogs discourage visitors?
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Visitors to prisons nationwide could soon be subject to random sniffing by drug dogs before they see their incarcerated loved ones. In a new attempt to stem the flow of illegal substances into prisons, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections has implemented a plan to employ dogs to help search visitors at state prison entrances. But many prisoners worry that the strategy could discourage people from visiting. "If they start doing that it will make visitors not want to come," one prisoner tells The Fix. "That is a crazy idea. Why would my people have to be subjected to that?" Drug testing and searching of inmates—including the use of drug-sniffing dogs—is common within most facilities. But drugs continue to be smuggled into prisons, severely impacting reentry efforts and inmates' well-being, say officials—and the most tried-and-tested route is through the visiting room. Using dogs to sniff visitors could help intercept much of the contraband. But prisoners claim this is a breech of their visitors' rights: "Just because I am doing time for drugs doesn't mean my visitors have to be punished also," the prisoner tells us. "Can you imagine my 90-year-old grandmother having to get sniffed down by a police dog? She hasn't done anything wrong." Visits are a vital way for prisoners to maintain family ties, and many fear that fewer visits could make it even harder for them to reintegrate into society after release.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.