On an idyllic sun-drenched day in California, I find myself in jail. But unlike the 5,000 or so inmates of North Kern State Prison, located 150 miles north of Los Angeles, I’m here voluntarily, accompanied by Zach Skow, a man on a mission to bring dogs into every US prison. Skow is the founder of Pawsitive Change, a rehabilitation programme that pairs rescue dogs with inmates. He began a pilot programme at California City Correctional Facility in January 2016, teaching inmates to become dog trainers, and it’s now been rolled out to four more California state prisons and one female juvenile correction centre. To date more than 300 men have graduated from the programme and roughly 200 dogs from “high-kill” shelters have been rescued and adopted as a result of the inmates’ work with them (the shelters accept any animal, regardless of age or circumstance, but they do euthanise a certain percentage if they can’t rehome them). Seventeen of the programme’s human graduates have been paroled and so far none has returned to prison (at a time when the US recidivism rate stands at 43%). The majority of the dogs they trained have been awarded the Canine Good Citizen certification… Read full this story
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