Solano State Prison in Vacaville will begin training eight dogs this week as a program to find contraband like drugs and cell phones expands.
The dogs will spend the next two days meeting prospective handlers and acclimating to working in prison.
"When we start the academy, we do two days of classroom work with the handlers," said Jeremy Packard, the statewide K-9 coordinator for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "On the third day, we actually give the dogs to the assigned handler. So, they're with the handler 24-7 from that point on until the last day of certification."
The program is expanding from 49 dogs in 21 prisons to 70 dogs in 35 prisons statewide.
"The dogs, just them being present, stops the influx of contraband," said Lieutenant Jay Ojo, who works at the prison. "Just having the dog present, not even searching or doing anything, just it being there, is, in itself be a deterrent. So, having two in every institution, that would be big."
The department said in the last three years K-9 units have found nearly 3,800 cell phones and nearly 160 pounds of cocaine, heroin, meth, and marijuana combined.
While the department is happy to expand the program, it is with a heavy heart. Sergeant Brian Pyle, who started the program in 2009, died of cancer on Friday. There is a hand-painted sign now above the kennel in Vacaville that reads, "Do it for Pyle."
After two weeks in Vacaville, the teams will undergo another five weeks of training in Stockton.
The officers receiving training and their K-9 partners will then work in Tehachapi, Corona, Vacaville, Tracy, Sacramento and San Quentin.