Detection of contraband in the Wellington Correctional Centre has been given a boost following the allocation of two specially-trained dogs to the Central West Region team.
The K9 Kelpie Shadow and K9 Kelpie Jed are the newest additions to the area which covers a number of correctional centres including Wellington, Bathurst and Lithgow.
Corrective Services NSW welcomed the drug-detecting dogs and their handlers to the team following an intensive 16-week course in specialised dog handling and training.
They are among eight dogs to be released to regions across the state.
K9 training manager Sharon Charman said they will be a valuable addition to the more than 40 staff and their K9s already working in the unit.
“The new recruits have learnt a variety of theory including dog psychology and dealing with incidents to the practical experience of searching inmates and visitors at correctional centres,” Ms Charman said.
“The class was a great mix – with the correctional officers coming from a variety of backgrounds and experiences – and they all worked well together while their dogs were very adaptive to new environments and information.
“They’ll play an important role like the rest of the unit, which conducts regular searches at prisons across the state to help fight drugs and other contraband getting into correctional centres. This provides and promotes a safer environment for staff, inmates and visitors.”
The K9 unit is part of the elite Security Operations Group and is deployed to assist with inmate search operations and visitor operations.
Each handler is assigned a dog and is responsible for training him or her to recognise particular odours. Some of the dogs are trained to discover drugs while others are trained to detect phones and even explosives.
The SOG conducted more than 85,000 searches of visitors, their property and their vehicles last year, including more than 67,000 with K9s.
This resulted in 243 visitors being charged by police for contraband offences. Correctional centres refused entry to 573 visitors for the same reason during this period.
K9 handler Ben Kember, who is partnered with a 14-month old kelpie, said it was a great coincidence that all the dogs matched well with their handlers.
“All the new recruits selected a dog at the beginning of the course, the personalities clicked and we stayed with them throughout the course,” Mr Kember said.
“I feel thankful to be part of this unit and assist staff at all the centres to ensure we’re stopping drugs and other contraband from coming into the prisons.”