Hardened Killers Become Dog Trainers In MI’s Greyhound Inmate Experience


When they’re not competing, racing greyhounds spend much of their lives in crates. That may help explain the connection between the dogs and the Michigan inmates who prepare them for adoption as house pets after their racing days are done, reports the Detroit Free Press. At Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, where the state’s oldest inmate-greyhound program, the Greyhound Inmate Experience, is nine years old, most of the dog handlers are convicted killers. These hardened men go soft when it comes to the dogs under their care. “They make you feel again,” said Lewis Hart, 58, of Detroit, who is serving life for a 1996 murder and armed robbery. “It’s hard to say good-bye to each of them,” he said. “Every time you get a dog, you think this one right here is the one that really touched your heart. And then the next one comes along, and does the same thing.”

Each dog lives with the inmate and a co-handler in the neighboring cell, 24-7, for 20 weeks. The greyhounds learn basic commands, such as “sit,” and “heel,” along with how to have fun and interact with people. There’s a fenced area — a pen within the pen — where the inmates take the dogs to go potty and run without a leash. “We need to teach them how to be a dog again,” said Frank Duenaz, 39, who is serving a life sentence for a 1995 murder. Though inmates and prison officials say it has rehabilitative benefits, training the dogs is considered a prison job — one of the most coveted. It pays $2.66 a day, but not all the returns are monetary, inmates say. “I have another life I’m responsible for; that’s a beautiful thing,” said Marco Johnson, 42, of Inkster, another convicted killer serving life. “It teaches you responsibility, humility, patience.”

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