Sunday, August 01, 2010

Female inmates training dogs in Brownwood

I've seen reports of similar programs in adult settings and always thought it was a good idea, so I'm pleased to see notice on the Texas Youth Commission website that the Ron Jackson unit in Brownwood, which houses female juvenile inmates, is experimenting with youth training dogs as part of their treatment curriculum:
PAWS is a unique program that uses the natural relationship that comes from the bond between humans and animals living together and being responsible for each other.

The PAWS program pairs select TYC youth with K9 partners for 12 weeks. The dogs, who come from local animal shelters, learn basic commands, improved socialization skills, and earn American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizenship certification. Youth learn responsibility and benefit from the companionship.

During the 12 week program, youth are responsible for their dogs at all times. They must groom, feed, and train them. The dogs live on the dorm with their human caretakers. To reduce the chances of a pair becoming too attached, youth rotate K9 assignments.
See this Brownwood Bulletin coverage (pdf) from April, when five girls graduated the first class of five dogs. I like this approach a lot. To train a dog requires a level of empathy, patience, and personal responsibility that probably is of greater therapeutic value than many of TYC's formal treatment programs. Plus the act of participating in skills instruction, applying what was taught and witnessing positive results from one's work likely is an alien concept for a lot of kids who end up in youth prisons. However, all such programs I'm aware of seem to exist on an extremely small scale. (Five inmates is a drop in the bucket.) The program is sponsored independently by Ag-Mart, Dr. Pepper, and a couple of local veterinarians, but given poor outcomes for TYC drug treatment, if it came to choosing I might prefer they fund the PAWS program.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Happy dogs and lonely females at BW. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Funny how a blog post citing the positive things that TYC is doing gets little to no response, but post something negative and it's a free-for-all.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

ain't that the truth, 8:11?

D.A. Confidential said...

There's a program in the Travis County jail that I've been a little involved with, inmates with pending charges working with a couple of great officers to train guide dogs for the blind.
I've had a chance to chat with a couple of the inmates and it's astounding to me how much they get out of the program. It'll sound cheesy to many, perhaps, but the self-confidence and self-esteem of these men and women (low in most cases coming into jail) gets a huge boost, and we're hoping those who graduate from the program find work with animals in the future, and stay out of trouble.
You are right, though, it's a drop in the bucket as far as numbers. But its so rewarding for all those who take part, including mean old prosecutors like me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. What a wonderful program! Sounds like everyone benefits. The quote from the girl who said it was the best thing in her life brings tears to my eyes.

Anonymous said...

It really is true. TYC continues to need help but many improvements have been made and many good programs/ideas have been implemented.

Anonymous said...

I really teared-up when I seen that dog between her legs. Such dedication.

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Sophie said...

I am writing a thesis on this topic for my psychology degree. I think that if we were to incorporate inmates into the training and housing of dogs that it would be a benefit to our communities. My thesis mainly focuses on inmates training dogs to be service dogs. Namely medical aid dogs. These animals are costly to training and in many cases even more costly to acquire. Utilizing inmates to conduct this training would severly cut costs and give the inmates a useful skill to apply to the outside world if they are elligible for release that is.