The prison world may not immediately seem to fit with the world of dog training. The emotions and preconceptions associated with each are often quite opposite. Yet different non-profits and penitentiaries across the United States are partnering to create an opportunity that will benefit everyone lucky enough to be involved.
And it’s not a new concept. In fact, the idea was first implemented in 1981 by Sister Pauline Quinn. Sister Pauline was a volunteer dog training herself. Knowing firsthand the transformative affects the positive experience had had in her own life inspired her to involve others. Since that first endeavor in 1981, the sister travelled all around the country implementing dog training programs in interested correctional facilities.
Each program is different. Some focus on rehabilitating abused animals, while others train service dogs. Many of these dogs go on to assist people with autism and seizures, provide alerts for diabetes, and act as mobility and hearing dogs. Others have partnered with organizations that bring dogs and veterans together to help them cope with the physical, emotional, and mental scars of war. But each of these programs helps prepare a dog for their future.
The positive impact the prison dog programs have had on the inmates has also come to light. One example of the impact such programs can have on the life of inmates is evident at the medium-security Enfield Correctional Institution in Connecticut. Through a partnership with America’s VetDogs, the inmates help to train service dogs that go on to support military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Inmates who participate in the program have a recidivism rate below 25%; a dramatic decrease from the overall prison average of 85%.
Any pet owner knows that the love of their animal can change their life in innumerable and joyful ways. And for those who have service animals, they know the dramatic ways these animals can improve their quality of life. However, most of these animals rely on volunteers for their training. Those lucky enough to be paid for their efforts make an average of less than $11.00 per hour. This is just one more way that the prison dog program is making a positive impact.
The prison dog program not only gives inmates the opportunity for personal growth through their training efforts, but it gives them hope knowing that those efforts will go on to change a person’s life.