The Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Wa., pioneered the concept of matching abandoned, abused and neglected dogs with offenders, many of whom come from backgrounds almost as dire, reports the Wall Street Journal. Started in 1981, the program produced several nonprofits bearing names like Colorado Cell Dogs, Death Row Dogs and New Leash on Life, which rescue dogs from crowded shelters. From there, they get straightened out by prisoners.
With repetition, rehabilitation can turn into skill sets a dog can be proud of. From fetching tennis balls con-canines learn to pick up house keys for the wheelchair bound. Starting with leash-tugging exercises, a dog may learn to help fallen humans to their feet. Offenders here earn their way into the dog program by remaining infraction-free during incarceration. They earn $1.41 an hour—a good wage in an institution where kitchen jobs or swinging a mop pays less than a third of that. “This is what gets me through,” says Alvinita Stuart, a convicted murderer whose sentence ends in 2016. Some get the benefit of canine therapy, learning to talk out their problems with a psychologist while stroking a well-mannered pooch at their sides.