|Sending Dogs to Prison|
TEACHING INMATES OLD TRICKS: In 2001 Sally Irvin, Ph.D., founded the non-profit organization Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN). The organization teaches prison inmates how to train skilled companions dogs, assistant dogs as well as facility, therapy and release dogs. ICAN started at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, first working with two incarcerated adolescents. Today, the program is now offered at three locations in central Indiana. A total of 11 skilled companion or assistance dogs have been placed with children and adults, as well as 17 in-home therapy dogs.
Handlers -- the prison inmates participating in the program -- are chosen by an on-site coordinator who jointly screens and interviews candidates. They must show a pattern of responsible behavior during their time in the facility, be free from any major conduct problems, have good reports from previous job assignments and must not have a history of repeated violence. Because of the amount of time invested in the dogs, all handlers must also have a minimum of 40 months left before they are released. The goal is for each handler to raise at least two pups. Each inmate goes through a two to three month trial period where they work with a senior handler. During that time they learn training basics, how to care for their pups, learn about issues people with disabilities face, and practice their training skills.
MAKING AN IMPACT: Indiana residents with physical disabilities aren't the only ones who benefit from the program. Offenders in prisons training the assistant dogs learn responsibility, empathy and communication skills. According to the ICAN website, inmates who complete the program have shown astounding results: · 97 percent of handlers show improvement in empathy and lessened depression. · 87 percent of handlers show improvement in positive communication skills. · Correctional staff report an overall decrease in the general offender acting out on dorms where pups in training were assigned. Read more.
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