Saint Francis Service Dogs places service dogs with children and adults living with disabilities, but the program would be nothing without a group of prison inmates. That’s right, this organization partners with the Virginia Department of Corrections, a men’s prison where inmates raise and train the dogs from puppyhood.
You’re about to hear from the inmates themselves as they describe the purpose and hope provided by their four-legged companions. Everything about this program is incredibly powerful, from the second the inmates take the tiny puppies into their cells and give them names, to the bittersweet goodbye once the dog is ready to go to his or her new home. It must be very difficult yet very rewarding to say goodbye to these amazing dogs.
It’s programs like this one that bring out a different side of these men beneath the tough exterior. Interacting with these dogs has a way of turning the most hardened inmates into a big pile of mush. They’re able to be compassionate and soft without being seen as weak. At the same time, the program has a brilliant way of keeping them on a straight-and-narrow path while serving their time. ‘You can’t go out here and gamble or fight. You have to stay spotless to be in this program. We know if we mess up, we’re going to lose the dogs,’ one inmate poignantly says.
Do you think more prisons across the country would benefit from a program like this?
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