Lew Evangelidis, the county sheriff has always been looking for new ways in bringing enhanced reentry and rehabilitative programs at the county jail and the house of correction. These programs, he said, are aimed at reducing recidivism amongst those serving time at both institutions.
On that note, he recently partnered with the Second Chance Animal Shelter so as to start a new program, pairing the low-risk inmates with the shelter dogs. The project is not an average pet program, although it has been a definite success by far, both for the animal shelter facility and the correctional facility.
Remy, 1-year-old yellow Labrador is amongst the newest members who will occupy a cell block at the county correctional facility. The dog was 20-pound overweight upon his arrival, along with the tendency to jump. Four-month-old Gabe is a kennel mix who is impossible to be adopted due to its fondness for nipping and chewing. Kingston is the latest of the prison pooches, one who is very skittish for a family to adopt. All these shelter dogs with their individual traits that make them “un-adoptable” will have a second chance with the inmates who have plenty time to give.
The Second Chance Initiative of the sheriff boiled down to the chosen inmates who will participate in the project. They will be responsible for the care, control, and custody of their dog 24/7. Each dog will be paired with 2 pre-screened inmates, who will be regarded as their “handlers”. The inmates also went through training by the animal shelter’s staff, concerning the behavioral techniques.
The dogs will be housed in the jail campus’ minimum security building, along with the low-risk inmates who are known to be progressing in their rehabilitation. The dogs and inmates will equally learn techniques in developing their behavior around each other and the facility.
The sheriff strongly believes that the canines will likewise help the inmates prepare for the routine demands of their lives outside the prison, easing them from what would be a difficult transition. Evangelidis said having the dogs in the facility has quickly lifted the spirits of the inmates, while creating a more upbeat atmosphere. Tension and stress levels are also reduced, making a safer environment for the correctional staff. He explained that studies have revealed inmates who had bonded with animals had lower rates and risks of re-offending.
Luis Maldonado, 34, and the handler of Remy agrees with the sheriff’s statement, saying how he loves taking care of Remy as he feels a sense of responsibility. He has been looking forward to training the dog every single day. He added that Remy tends to cheer him up as well. Meanwhile, Remy will be adopted by an employee of the sheriff’s department soon.
Similarly, the animal shelter has been very appreciative of the program as they notice significant improvements in both the dogs and the inmates. They expressed their gratification towards Evangelidis who hosted the program, while it will help the dogs find a better and safer home faster, according to Lindsay Doray, manager of the animal shelter.