In 1981 the first prison dog started in Washington State at the Washington state Institution for Women. The program is still going. They have a 28 run kennel where outside dogs can come in and board. They also have a grooming center where the inmates are taught how to groom and they have a cat room. The Washington State Correctional Department has twelve prisons. Ten have dog programs and two have cat programs.
Now there are programs all over the United States, Canada, and other countries. The program helps inmates learn how to become 'other' centered as well as to give them training to help them get employment after they are released.
Criminal acts of violence that hurt others is not acceptable and not tolerated. Criminals need to be responsible for their crime. They need to take responsibility for what they did, have compassion for people they have hurt and find ways of giving back to society for the wrongs that they have done.
To warehouse inmates, punish them and then throw them back out into the community without ways to help retrain them to do something positive with their lives does not help rebuild damage lives but rather it builds more anger and disrespect toward authorities.
The Dog programs that have allowed a personal approach are the programs that will succeed. I hope that prison dog programs will base their programs on mutual respect and dignity, where love is the focus... more than control and intimidation, because if you want people to return to society, focused on being better persons, then the ingredient of love needs to be included; rules to be followed but with compassion and understanding.
This applies to the staff at the prison as well as they are an essential part of the success of these programs.
With dedicated staff, trainers and inmates committed to their change, the Prison Dog Project will succeed in changing the lives of all that are involved!
These prison dog programs are mostly developed without the help of state funds. Many supplies are needed to help other prison dog programs develop, as well as to help them continue on. We need donations and supplies to make this unique rehabilitation program a continued success.
Starting and then maintaining the prison dog programs are difficult. The prison system sometimes kills their own program because of changes in rules, lack of understanding the concept of the program, failure to communicate with those who are operating the program. There are other wardens and correctional officers who bend over backwards to help make it a successful program. Those programs who have the support of the administration is the key to the success of the prison program.