(The Pontiac Tribune) — With a recidivism rate hovering around 50% nationwide, American prisons aren’t exactly models for rehabilitation — but one organization has found an unconventional solution with benefits for inmates and society alike.
Leader Dogs for the Blind has partnered with prisons around the country since 1939 by placing puppies in the sole care and custody of inmates who train them to be service dogs.
Though it seems an unlikely pairing, the program works surprisingly well — the recidivism rate for the institutions with the puppy program are only 11%-13%.
Leader Dogs for the Blind has even found that dogs trained inside the prison are more successful than those raised elsewhere.
Inmates must first demonstrate they can be trusted, but once chosen to participate they are responsible for every aspect of the puppies’ care from grooming to training to recreation. Animals even sleep in cells with their handlers for the duration of training, which can last up to a year.
Since the inmates are treated with respect and dignity, they feel a sense of purpose by their contribution to those in need. Guard and inmate interaction flows more smoothly, as well.
“About 68 percent of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of their release from prison, and 77 percent were arrested within five years,” according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
The benefits of working with animals can be seen in the tears shed when the dogs are taken for placement with a person in need.
The Leader Dogs program seems to have found an innovative way to deal with recidivism that’s a win for everyone.
Leader Dogs for the Blind provides inmates with more than 100 puppy companions every year.
Why is the recidivism rate of criminals so high in the United States? That’s a good question.
The following video shows the program in action with clips from correctional facilities in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.