State

Ill. budget cuts disbanded agency's K-9 unit

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois corrections officials had to use a K-9 unit from a county sheriff's department during a manhunt last month for an escaped inmate, after budget cuts prompted the state agency to disband its own dog unit.

The positions of five dog handlers who worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections were eliminated last year, according to the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers. The workers were reassigned, and the dogs were let go. The correction department's K-9 units had been used to hunt for drugs and contraband inside state prisons, and were also used to hunt down missing inmates.

But an Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman said the lack of state K-9s didn't play a role in the escape by Jared Carter, who walked away from the Robinson Correctional Center on Aug. 30 and was on the run for days.

"We weren't shortchanged or hampered in this effort," said Tom Shaer, who added that Crawford County sheriff's department dogs were at the scene in less than half an hour – faster than state dogs could have gotten there.

Carter, who was serving time for burglary, walked away from the minimum-security facility six miles west of Palestine while mowing grass on a work crew. He was eventually arrested four days later about seven miles away from the prison. Shaer said the manhunt, which involved more than 100 IDOC employees along with state police and federal marshals, cost at least $100,000.

In 2004 the agency had three German shepherds, two Malinois, one Dutch shepherd and a Rottweiler, records show.

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