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Dog Program: K-9's in Corrections
By Austin Jarriel and Gannon Smith
Published: 12/19/2016

Tug of war a Abstract

What if I told you there was a way to teach inmates vocational skills as well as skills that could lead them to a job after incarceration while lowering inmate to inmate and inmate to officer violence! Around the United States programs often called “Cell Dogs”, “Prison Puppies” or “K9’s for convicts” are being used in attempt to lower tensions within the prisons and teaching inmates the skills needed to properly train and take care of the dogs so that they can become service dogs for the disabled or even sometimes narcotics K9’s for law enforcement agencies. Inmates in prison especially those who are there for violent crimes often lack a sense of empathy and with so many offenders living in close proximity of each other tensions rise very quickly and easily. It is up to the correctional officers to maintain order and to deescalate violent situations but these correctional officers are greatly outnumbered. By putting a K9 program into your prison you will reduce tensions between inmates as well as officers within the facility.

(Deaton, Christiane (2005). Humanizing Prisons with Animals: A Closer Look at “Cell Dogs” and Horse Programs in Correctional Institutions)

K-9's in Corrections

In the corrections system today we are faced with overcrowding, high rates of recidivism, and low morale within institutions and facilities. After researching, we have found a program being used all over the nation that will boost overall morale of inmates and facilities, reduce recidivism which will result in less overcrowding, and bring better structured and equipped inmates back into society upon release. This program has many names such as: "Cell Dogs" and "Prison Pups" but as an overall program name we are going to refer to it as "K9's in Corrections". These programs take dogs and puppies from local humane societies, dog pounds, and adoption centers and then place them with inmates who receive training from K9 handlers and dog trainers to get the dogs ready for adoption and sometimes prepare them to be used as police working dogs.

The first thing we must ask ourselves is why should we use this program? The simple answer to this question is because it works. In 2013, there were about 25 facilities using this program nationwide and there are currently three county jails in the state of Georgia that are using this program; Chatham County Jail, Fulton County Jail, and Gwinnett County Jail. All three of these jails state they believe the programs have been a huge success. LT. Robert Brooks who coordinates the K9 program at the Chatham County jail stated "out of 35 inmates who've been through the program last year, only 4 came back" (Mari, 2013). Lt Roberts then went on to say "without the program that number would be more like 17" (Mari, 2013). Looking at the same program in the state of Washington, a Nevada Law Journal article explained that the average three year recidivism rate in the state is 28 percent, but only 5 percent for inmates who have participated in the program (Spenser, 2012). As you can see, this program will greatly decrease recidivism in jails and could lead to a possible fix of overcrowding.

These dogs programs not only benefit the jails that use them but also help the inmates in the jail that participate in the program. Due to the requirements of the program, inmates learn vocational skills due to mandatory log books and daily journals of the activities they perform with dogs. This program also improves behavior in the inmates who are either waiting to get into the dog program or already working with the dogs due to the requirement of staying on good behavior to be entered and stay in the program. Lt Robert Brooks from the Chatham County jail stated that “There is someone else counting on them to make a good decision” (Mari, 2013). These programs instill empathy and responsibility within the inmates making them less violent and more manageable.

Many people look at this program and say "yeah but how does it compare?", and by that they mean are the dogs being trained by inmates as successful as dogs being trained by humane societies or other traditional methods and the answer is yes. A New York program "Puppies Behind Bars" has shown to be more successful than traditional training. The "Puppies Behind Bars" had an 87 percent success rate compared to a 50 percent success rate for dogs trained by volunteers at public adoption facilities (Neese, 2015).

A big factor of any new program is what does it cost? It turns out this program could cost your taxpayers not one single penny. Gwinnett County Jail funded the entire program off of the money made from inmate commissary. Other jails used left over profits from products made from inmate workshops. The fact that this program is costless to taxpayers is just another reason facilities should consider using this program.

We believe the K9's in Corrections program could be the answer to many of the problems the corrections system deals with on a daily basis. These programs boost morale, drop recidivism rates, and prepare inmates for the outside world upon release. In the next few years with the proper planning and usage of the K9 programs the corrections system could see great improvements.  

Deaton, C. (2005). Humanizing Prisons with Animals: A Closer Look at "Cell Dogs" and Horse Programs in Correctional Institutions. Journal of Correctional Education, 56(1), 46.
Furst, G. (2006). Prison-based animal programs: A national survey. The Prison Journal, 86(4), 407-430
Mari, J. (2013) "Can Dogs Stop the Revolving Door Jails?” Retrieved from http://news.wabe.org/post/best-2013-can-dogs-stop-revolving-door-jails
Spenser, L. (2012). Prison animal programs: A brief review of the literature. Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Retrieved from http://www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/doc/research-reports/prisonanimalprogramsliteraturereviewfinal.pdf
Neese, B. (2015, October 15). How Dog Training is Affecting Prison Rehabilitation. Retrieved November 21, 2016, from http://online.alvernia.edu/how-dog-training-is-affecting-prison-rehabilitation/


  1. StephanieCasey on 06/25/2019:

    K-9's are my favorite types of dogs. They are just so cute and obedient. They are better than Cocker spaniel puppies, and I know some people won't agree with that here, though it's my opinion, and I'll stick with it.

  2. StephanieCasey on 12/02/2018:

    Austin Jarriel and Gannon Smith thank you for this well and good post on K-9's in Corrections and also about the Bark Avenue. This post is really good and interesting, keep me posted with more on this though, thank you.

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