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Sending Dogs to Prison
By ivanhoe.com
Published: 05/11/2009

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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  3. angelchild on 05/28/2009:

    Since I worked in a cell house that is involved with the dog programs for several years I know first hand how the program can help the dogs as well as the offenders in their care and training. It helps promote discipline,patience,as well as increased empathy for those offenders chosen to participate in this program and take it serious. It is not a easy assignment to stay involved with. The offenders must be able to have the dog in the cell with them 24/7 and take the dog outside in all kinds of weather (rain or shine)! They must be able to get up to care for the dog all hours of the day or night! They have to clean up after the dog even when it is sick! They have to sleep with the dog in a close area even when it might not smell so good( even the wet dog smell)! This is just a few things that can chg. a person after a while. They get attached to the dog then it is time for it to be adopted. I have seen a lot of sadness at this time! I did notice that a lot of offenders involved seemed to show a lot of chg. in their character. They were more responsible, they had more self confidence,and seemed to show some hope for their future. I also saw the dogs chg. from a sad, sick looking dog,to a happy well behaved,deciplined dog in a few weeks. I feel that this is a wonderful program and should be cont. and even increased! Thank You, for your time. Sincerely, (Ex-C.O.) Vickie Jones

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