canineCourtesy of Human Rights WatchThe American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut sent a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell Thursday to urge her to end the use of dogs to control prisoners. The letter comes one week after Correctional Department Commissioner Theresa Lantz responded to the ACLU’s letter that urged her to end the practice following the release the Human Rights Watch report, which found Connecticut was one of five states to authorized the use of dogs to extract prisoners. “It is shameful that Connecticut should be the last state in the Union to continue to tolerate this barbaric practice,” Roger Vann, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut said Friday.

The Human Rights Watch report found Connecticut was one of only one of two states, Iowa was the other, that still employed this method to control its prison population. According to the report, in 2005 Correctional “staff brought dogs onto the cell blocks for cell extractions twenty times. In eleven of these incidents, the dogs were directly involved in the cell extractions. In the other nine, the dogs were not sent into the cell.” The report concluded from its conversations with Correction Department officials that “It is not clear whether Connecticut permits the use of dogs for cell extractions when the prisoner is mentally ill.“In her response to the ACLU of Connecticut, Lantz wrote following the report two administrative directives were changed.  “While the previous language of those Administrative Directive had set the threshold for the use of canines in a call extractions at the level of, ‘…a clear and imminent danger to the safety of staff or inmates…’ the revision now requires that, ‘Canines, as a use of physical force in the extraction of an inmate from a cell shall only be authorized when there is an imminent threat of the life of staff, inmates, and/or the public’.” “Our highly trained canines are used during cell extractions only under rare and extreme circumstances, and only when all other alternatives have been exhausted,” Lantz wrote. Vann called Lantz’s response inadequate and unpersuasive and urged Rell and the legislature to take immediate action to halt the practice.