Target: Maryland Western Correctional Institute
Goal: Thank the Western Correctional Institute in Maryland for using incarcerated veterans to train dogs to help disabled vets
The Western Correctional Institute in Maryland has developed an incredible program that will have a truly significant impact on the lives of dogs, prisoners, and military veterans. Maryland has been using the facility to give incarcerated veterans the chance to train and rehabilitate dogs that will be adopted out to disabled veterans. This is a wonderful program that will completely transform the futures of everyone involved and deserves our gratitude.
There are several other prisons throughout the country currently using inmates to train service dogs, but the Western Correctional Institute is the first to use incarcerated veterans to train dogs for other veterans who require the assistance of a service dog. Statistics have shown that dogs raised in prisons do much better than those raised in a foster home or shelter because the rigid schedules that guide prison life are much easier for the dogs to adapt to, which ultimately improves their ability to learn.
The dogs are provided by America’s VetDogs, an organization devoted to pairing dogs with disabled vets. Three dogs have arrived at the prison since September and will spend 14 months working with inmates on tasks like retrieving objects and flipping light switches. Each is assigned a professional trainer who comes twice a week to teach classes as well as an inmate from a select group of those who are considered highly trustworthy. The dogs are the inmates’ responsibility and accompany them to all of their meals and activities throughout the day. They also sleep in their own cages within the cells. During weekends the dogs are taken to private homes, parks, malls, and other public places so they can become familiar with the domestic life they will encounter when their training is over.
Since the program started 120 inmates have applied to participate in the program and two other correctional facilities in Maryland have joined. Not only are these dogs getting the best training possible, they are dramatically improving the lives of those in prison and will eventually devote their lives to helping disabled veterans manage their disabilities. Hazard Wilson, a Western Correctional Institute inmate serving a life sentence for murder explains, “it gives me so much joy just to see them romp and roll around and be puppies.”
Dear Western Correctional Institute,
This past September you began a program that uses incarcerated veterans to train service dogs for other veterans with disabilities. The extent to which this program will help people is truly remarkable. Not only are inmates getting a wonderful piece of happiness and responsibility, the dogs are being given the best training and will go on to help disabled veterans.
Thank you so much for your contribution to both dogs and humans. We hope that your facility will influence prisons throughout the country to follow in your footsteps and improve the lives of so many.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: my_southborough via Flickr