Massachusetts prison inmates are training dogs in a new program called Canines for Combat Veterans, reports the New York Times. The group sponsoring the program says that because of advances in medicine, many more veterans are surviving their injuries and need help from “service dogs.” It takes about half the time to train dogs in prison as it does in foster homes because of the more intensive training they get from inmates.
State Correction Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy said the program had profound effects on the culture of a prison. “Officers stop by to pat the dogs, they smile, maybe they strike up a conversation with the inmate training the dog,” she said. “It establishes a basic human connection.” Warden James Saba is unsure whether the program, already in six prisons in Massachusetts, can be expanded. “We have 268 inmates in [one] prison, which is already too many,” he. “And for every puppy, we lose a bed because the dogs take the place of an inmate in the cell.”