For decades, authorities have used K-9 dogs to sniff out drugs, explosives and other contraband.
The Arizona Department of Corrections has found a new item for dogs to detect: cell phones.
The department has four dogs that are either working or getting trained to work in one of the state’s 10 prisons to search for cell phones being hidden by inmates, officials said.
Cell phones are banned in prisons. Prisoners found with phones can face disciplinary action and even criminal charges, depending on the severity of an incident in which a phone was used.
Inmates can use the phones to conduct criminal activity, including drug transactions and gang business, beyond prison walls, said Ralph Pendergast, service dog program trainer and administrator for the department .
Cell phones also can aid prisoners who try to, or actually do escape, said Angelo Daniels, commander of the Correctional Officer Training Academy on Tucson’s West Side, where the dogs are trained.
“If they have the ability to arrange a ride, they can take off,” Daniels said.