Drug Sniffing Dogs


The Massachusetts Department of Correction has announced that it will soon start using drug-sniffing dogs on visitors to its prisons. The policy is described as a method to reduce the smuggling of drugs to prisoners by visitors.

Although the DOC announcement described the sniffer dogs as “non-aggressive,” the routine use of dogs to sniff visitors raises safety and emotional concerns among many friends and family members of prisoners.

In addition, a number of details of the policy need to be clarified. Issues that need to be clarified include the method for using the dogs, what kind of search will be made if the dog responds positively to a visitor, whether visitors can refuse to be searched, what the consequences of refusing a search will be, what about people (especially children) who are afraid of dogs, and who will be subject to dog searches besides regular visitors (program volunteers, lawyers, and especially prison staff)?

There will be community and legal discussions of this new dog search policy in the coming days and weeks. Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) plans to be involved in these discussions, is seeking answers to the questions outlined above, and is evaluating all options. PLS will keep the public updated on this web site and on its Facebook page and Twitter feed.