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Going to the Dogs: Prison-Based Training Programs are Win-Win

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 71 Issue: 4 Dated: August 2009 Pages: 69,70,72
Pamela S. Hogle
Date Published
August 2009
3 pages
This article discusses the benefits and features of inmate dog-training programs and briefly describes specific dog-training programs in correctional facilities throughout the country.
Many of these programs work with service-dog training organizations to train assistance dogs for community members with disabilities. Others rehabilitate retired racing greyhounds and dogs from area shelters, teaching them skills and manners that will enable them to be placed with adoptive families. Proponents of these programs cite their "win-win" benefits. Not only do the dogs get attention and training, but participating inmates have the chance to learn important life skills while making useful contributions to their communities. Inmates learn nurturing skills in caring for and training the dogs and enjoy a reciprocal caring relationship in which the dogs accept and respond positively to them without regard for their criminal status. This can bolster inmates' self-esteem, an important factor in the development of positive behaviors. Service-dog organizations have found that a single trainer can oversee inmates working with dozens of dogs and that the dogs learn reliable skills while spending time in the prison environment. Administrators in facilities that host dog-training programs often report benefits that extend far beyond the small number of inmates who directly participate in the program. These benefits include reduced tension and violence throughout the facility. Nearly all the prisons with dog-training programs have strict behavioral criteria that inmate applicants must meet, such as no discipline tickets for 6 months or a year. Once an inmate is in the program, he/she can ask to leave, although this is rare. Inmates might also be removed from the program if they have a conduct violation.