The second fascinating contribution from a guest author.
On Monday I mentioned that I had been approached by two authors who wanted to share their articles with the readers of Learning from Dogs and on that day I published a guest post from Dr. Jane Brackman. Today, I’m delighted to share with you the thoughts of the second of those authors, Kylie Dunning, who describes herself as a writer who holds a strong passion for Psychology, especially in the field of Forensics. She is a lover of animals and an avid hiker in her spare time.
Here now follows Kylie’s essay,
Psychology of Healing: Dogs and Inmate Rehabilitation
In 1981, Sister Pauline Quinn envisioned a prison pet partnership program where inmates would train dogs for people with disabilities. Designed to benefit unwanted dogs, the inmates, and the future dog owners, the program was initiated in the Washington state prison for women. The success of the program led to dog training programs in prisons all over the country and has since become part of the material in forensic psychology programs and criminal rehabilitation programs.
Male and female inmates train anywhere from three to fifty dogs at a time for adoption into new families, as service animals, and sometimes for specialized purposes such as bomb-sniffing. There are other benefits. The prisoners who worked as trainers hope to find jobs in animal care as soon as they leave prison. Others, serving longer sentences, are given a sense of purpose and an improved outlook. Psychologically, having a dog to care for serves as a form of therapy and decreases depression, and it brings out good qualities in the inmates, even improving their attitude toward each other.
The Nash Correctional Institution in North Carolina has a program called “New Leash on Life,” in partnership with Southern Siberia Rescue, which pays for all the food and medical treatment for the dogs. Three dogs at a time are trained for eight weeks, then offered for adoption. Jerome Peterson, who has served 19 years for a second-degree murder charge, is one of the trainers. He says that teaching the dogs has taught him compassion and made him a better man. “You have to be patient with the dogs,” he explained. “Some have been abused, and some were left stranded.” He says that though only six of the inmates train the dogs, all 980 of the inmates at the medium-security prison benefit from the program. “A lot of guys wake up mad at the world for no reason,” he said. “When they see the dogs, they get happy — excited. Their whole demeanor just changes.”
Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas, a combined medium- and maximum-security prison, has a population of 2,500 criminals. Their Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program rescues dogs from death row. About 50 of them are trained by about 100 inmates on any given day. So far, about 1,200 dogs of all breeds and ages have found new homes under the program. Inmate Jerry McMullin trains his dogs in 15-minute intervals four times a day, rewarding them with treats he buys for 45 cents a pound at the canteen (out of the dollar a day he earns at his prison job—prisoners aren’t paid for training the dogs). “You don’t want to work with them too long or they stop paying attention. They get bored,” he says. “I use no force or fear, positive reinforcement only.” Inmates like Pete Spencer will go to lengths to help troubled dogs. “I had one who was so physically abused, he had no trust in humans,” Spencer says. “I slept on the floor with him for a month to get his trust and then I taught him commands.”
The inmates can see positive changes from working with dogs. Spencer says of his fellow inmate, “When I first met (McMullin), he was … well, pretty grouchy,” Spencer says. “Now he’s more open and alive and he has a positive outlook.” Other work programs can help prepare inmates for a job after release, but working with dogs may psychologically be a more effective way to rehabilitate them. With prison populations stressing already taxed resources, and the more and more animals in need of homes, the use of dog training programs in prisons is more than a happy accident. It is a creative way of using state resources to do real and lasting change in society.
Well what another wonderfully interesting guest post. Thank you, Kylie. More please!
Using details in Kylie’s article, it was very easy to find this video, plus the photograph at the head of the article came from the Southern Siberian Rescue website.
Homeless dogs are getting special help from inmates. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has launched their own “New Leash on Life” program that benefits inmates at the Columbia County Jail and the dogs.