ACLU Urges Connecticut Officials to End Use of Attack Dogs to Control Prisoners

Affiliate: ACLU of Connecticut
November 17, 2006 12:00 am

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Connecticut is the Only Remaining State in the Nation to Persist in “Barbaric” Practice, ACLU Says

HARTFORD, CT — The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and the ACLU’s National Prison Project are urging Governor M. Jodi Rell to end the use of canines to control prisoners, a barbaric practice that calls to mind the notorious photos of snarling dogs used against prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

In a November 16th letter, the ACLU called upon the governor to ban the use of attack dogs in Connecticut prisons, after the Connecticut Department of Correction stated in a letter to the ACLU that it will continue its use of dogs to extract disobedient prisoners from prison cells, making Connecticut the only state in the nation to continue using this demeaning practice.

“Every other state in the nation has figured out how to manage prisoners without the use of attack dogs,” said Margaret Winter of the ACLU National Prison Project. “Properly trained correctional officers should never have to turn to such drastic and dangerous practices.”

In a recent report about the use of attack dogs on prisoners in the United States, Human Rights Watch revealed that five states currently authorize the use of dogs for cell extractions, and of those, only Iowa and Connecticut actually used dogs for cell extractions. Immediately following the release of the report, Iowa announced that it would cease the use of dogs against prisoners.

The ACLU brought these facts to the attention of Theresa Lantz, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Correction, in a letter dated October 30, 2006. The letter explained, “The use of a fierce animal to control an imprisoned person is inherently degrading, and there is a pervasive view among corrections professionals that the use of dogs for cell extractions is neither necessary nor appropriate since there are always better and equally effective alternatives.”

The ACLU letter to Commission Lantz also cited an October 15 Hartford Courant editorial calling the practice of using dogs for cell extractions “cruel” and noting that it “brings to mind the graphic photos of snarling dogs used to control inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.”

In her November 8 response to the ACLU, Commissioner Lantz said that canines are “used during cell extractions only under rare and extreme circumstances” and that “when an inmate presents an imminent threat to life, however, I would rather have a dog face that risk than a correctional officer.”

Roger Vann, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut, called the Commissioner’s response inadequate and unpersuasive. “We urge the Governor and the legislature of Connecticut to call a halt to the use of attack dogs against prisoners,” he said. “It is shameful that Connecticut should be the last state in the Union to continue to tolerate this barbaric practice.” The ACLU’s letter to Governor Rell is online at:

The ACLU’s letter to Commissioner Lantz is online at:

Commissioner Lantz’s response is online at:

The Human Rights Watch report, Cruel and Degrading: The Use of Dogs for Cell Extractions in U.S. Prisons, is online at:

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