A group of canines has gone from the doghouse to the big house, joining inmates at the Tennessee Prison for Women, reports The Tennessean. The Tennessee Department of Correction has teamed up with the Nashville Humane Association and Petsmart to start a nine-month program that puts inmates in charge of training mistreated, mixed-breed dogs. The program, modeled after a similar one in Ohio, placed four dogs with eight women – two inmates to a dog. Inmates and program sponsors call it the perfect symbiotic relationship: “As the inmates teach the dogs how to sit and give a high five, the dogs teach the inmates social skills and give them a sense of worth and purpose.”
The dogs sleep in large kennels next to the inmates’ bunk beds. The dog food sits on a shelf in the cell next to the women’s food. “It gives you purpose. Otherwise, your time here is just futile,” said Candace McCarter, 28, who shares a cell with another inmate and their dog, Mercy. “Programs such as this teach people how to relate to other people,” said Roland Colson, assistant commissioner of operations. “It builds self-worth, and it builds their character. And, of course, some family is going to have a well-trained dog.” Colson believes the skills inmates will learn through this program will reduce the recidivism rate.