17 August 2016

Pet and Prisoner Programs Thriving

Metal bars cannot separate the complex bond between humans and animals.

Pet therapy – be it cuddling kittens, petting pooches or working with horses – has become a thriving industry and is eliciting a positive response as it works its way through the therapy regimes in North American prison systems.

The Metropolitan Correction Center in Lower Manhattan, NY is on the verge of launching its own ‘pooch pilot program’, created by Kimberly Collica-Cox, an associate professor at Pace University’s Criminal Justice Department.

The 14-week pilot project is slated to launch January 2017 and is designed for incarcerated women with children. Two dogs will be used to reunite prison moms with their children in six-hour reunion sessions at the correctional center.

Cost for the program is budgeted at $250,000 over the two-year pilot period.

“The women are in need of programming,” said Collica-Cox. “There's a real need for having dogs. They really have this interest in having animals come into the facility.”

Due to their overwhelmingly positive reception, pet-prisoner initiative programs have become staple programs in some institutions.

The Prison Pet Partnership (PPP) at the Washington Corrections Center for Women – a maximum security facility - connects  unwanted dogs with inmates for three-month cycles. The belief is that the prisoners will relate to the unwanted animal and be given purpose by providing love and nurturance to an animal otherwise unloved.

Through the relationship she builds with her assigned dog, it is believed the inmate will garner both life and job skills and gain a sense of self-worth or confidence boost to see beyond her present circumstances.

(Washington State Corrections Center for Women)
The women also work with training service dogs.

It started under the leadership of Sister Pauline Quinn in 1991, with the idea that these prisoners could assist in training these dogs to work with persons with disabilities.

Once an inmate is assigned a dog, that canine then becomes her full-time responsibility. Senior program participant inmates teach tricks of the trade to program newcomers.

The inmate gains skills. The dog becomes trained for service.

Since its inception, the program has been viewed a ‘huge success’ and hundreds of dogs have gone through the program and been placed into the community as service, seizure and therapy dogs. It has been referred to as a ‘model’ for other pet-prisoner initiatives.

Most states continue to offer some type of dog training and/or adoption programs in prisons.

Even from the inside, dog remains (wo)man’s best friend.

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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