Innovative Prison Program Teaches Man and Dog

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

At Wakulla Correctional Institute in Crawfordville, North Florida, inmates and man’s best friend both get a second chance. Inmates locked up for various serious offenses are transformed by training canines that they have something in common with. Both inmates and dogs had behavior problems that removed them from society. The dogs were facing euthanization for not conforming to the rules. The inmates were facing time behind bars for breaking the law. Both inmates and dogs had a future that looked bleak.  

Susan Yelton and Cathy Sherman, members of Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment, Crawfordville, NF, are responsible for initiating an innovative dog training program at Wakulla Correctional Institute in Crawfordville, Florida. Their idea originated from a program in Texas, Paws for Prison. 

When Yelton and Sherman decided to ascertain whether a dog training program would work in North Florida, their first challenge was convincing Russell Hosford, warden for Wakulla Correctional Institution that it was a good idea to bring misbehaved mutts from the humane society to live with inmates for two months. Hosford’s initial reaction was, “You have to be kidding me; do you mean dogs will be living in the prison barracks with the inmates?”

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ICAN – Indiana Canine Assistant Network

People with disabilities are often helped in life with specially trained dogs, who help them with day-to-day tasks and give these folks unconditional love and support.

Prison inmates in the Indiana state prison system are provided life and job skills while incarcerated – having the opportunity to train these special dogs to help people with disabilities. Dogs, inmates and people with disabilities all receive the bond of love.

The mission of the Indiana Canine Assistant Network is to train and place assistance dogs with children and adults with disabilities, while providing life and job skills to offenders who train the dogs for service work inside Indiana correctional facilities.

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Pups on Parole – Heaven Can Wait Animal Society

Imagine the love a dog that is on his “last days” at an animal shelter must feel when they are unconditionally loved by a human that at one time abused them. Imagine the love an incarcerated woman feels when she can help earn the trust of an abused dog.

This is one of the beautiful aspects of the Pups on Parole program. In partnership with the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society and the Jean and Southern Nevada Correctional Facility, dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized are rescued by Heaven Can Wait Animal Society volunteers and paired with women inmates to give them a second chance.


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Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and Prison Inmates

The thrill of the horse race track! The sounds of the horses hooves thundering across the track to the finish line, jockeys willing their horse forward, on-lookers cheering on their favorite horse to win–and money changing hands at the end. Ah, the glamor of the horse racing industry.

What happens to those horses when they can no longer race or receive career ending injuries? So often, these horses who are no longer “darlings” of the track, face neglect, abuse or end up at the slaughter house. What a sad, sad ending to a once glamourous life.

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Indiana State Prison Cat Therapy Program

Stray cats and kittens–hardened criminals with mental health disabilities. What do they have in common? Walking into the maximum security Indiana State Prison you will find stray cats that have given birth to kittens and from that began the cat therapy program that prisoners claim are helping to change their lives.

Inmates take in the stray cats and kittens and care for them in all ways–learning responsibility, caring, compassion and love. Many of these prisoners are in for hard-core crimes and many of them also have mental health problems and caring and bonding with the fuzzy kittens and cats brings out an unexpected tenderness.

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