The patience and discipline required to train dogs, combined with the companionship and unconditional love a dog can give, teaches inmates values like selflessness and responsibility that prison life usually discourages. In some cases this can be a transformative experience. Last week in Venus, TX, the Cleburne Times reports ("Paws in prisons holds first graduation," Aug. 19), inmates:
showed off the skills of dogs they trained at a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the Sanders Estes Unit ...
The eight week Paws in Prison program ended with inmates thanking Warden David McComis and other prison employees for allowing them to train the dogs.
“This has given me a whole different outlook on life,” said Mario Perez, an inmate who trained a dog named Midnight. “I am planning to stay in the program for one more round.”
Deputy Warden Michael Ringer said the Sanders Estes Unit plans to build the program and bring in more dogs over the next few months.
“This has had a positive impact on our facility,” he said.
The Sanders Estes Unit is the third GEO-run facility to implement Paws in Prison.
Wally Swanson, founder of the Camp Wolfgang dog rescue, donates dogs to the program, and Maximum K9 trainer Gayle Justice teaches inmates to train the dogs.
“There have been less disciplinary issues in the prison since the program began,” Swanson said. “Over the decades I have rarely had an involvement that is win-win like this is.”
Justice said inmates who handle the dogs have a deep concern for them.
“They really love the dogs,” she said. ...
The inmates train the dogs to be more social so they are more likely to be adopted, said GEO K9 Program Manager Michelle Gaconnet. ...
Dixon said the program taught him more about responsibility.
“This has brought a lot into my life,” he said through tears.
Inmate Bradley Waltermire agreed.
“You learn to give care to someone other than yourself,” he said.