September 10, 2009
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Contact: Public Affairs Office
Sago Palm’s Work Camp (SPWC) in Pahokee near West Palm Beach has been going to the dogs over the last few months, and persons with disabilities will be benefiting from that transformation soon.
The work camp, which is part of the Florida Department of Corrections, recently began an inmate Prison Pup Program in cooperation with New Horizons Service Dogs, Inc., to train service dogs to assist persons with disabilities. Its eight dogs will be in training for 18 months at the Work Camp, and when they graduate they’ll be able to assist owners in standing, turning on light switches, opening and closing doors, retrieving dropped items and more. Four of the puppies are 11-weeks-old and four are 17-weeks-old.
“This program not only benefits persons with disabilities who will gain lifelong companions and assistance, it helps our inmates to become more productive citizens upon release,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil.
The Prison Pup Program is an inmate vocational program where inmates can earn vocational certificates in dog grooming and training while simultaneously preparing dogs to assist persons with disabilities. The program is part of the Department’s Re-Entry initiative, which is focused on preparing inmates for successful re-entry into society upon release from prison. The minimum-custody inmates working in the Prison Pup Program, like 88% of all inmates in Florida prisons, will one day be released back into society.
Major Lori Kibler, who oversees the program, said it’s having a positive effect not just on the inmates but also the staff. “Each staff member from every shift checks on the dogs every day along with the inmates in the program. They’ve been doing a great job so far and so are the puppies,” said Kibler.
When Denim, Cotton, Gillus, Shamus, Melissa, Mikey, Mitzi and Michelle complete the program, they will be released to New Horizons Service Dogs, Inc., for additional training before being placed with persons with disabilities.