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Apr 17, 2007
Focus: Civil Rights
Action Request: Read
Location: United States

April 12 - TWO students are going to prison for a unique study into what happens when four puppies graduate from the dog house to the slammer.

Following from the success of such programs in the US, airing on a reality show called "Cell dogs", this is the first time a similar experiment will be tried in Australia.

University of Queensland's Claire Eddie and Georgia Sakrzewski will research whether the golden retriever-labrador crosses help reform inmates and improve staff morale at the Darling Downs Correctional Centre in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane.

The Pups in Prison program was today officially launched by the Minister for Police and Corrective Services, Judy Spence.

Eight inmates have been handpicked to raise and train the puppies for 16 months at the low security prison farm.

The pups will then be returned to non-profit organisation Assistance Dogs Australia and trained for another six months before being released to work with the disabled or elderly.

Similar programs have been trialled on the Gold Coast, NSW and the United States.

But UQ's Professor Jacquie Rand - who is assisting the students' research - believes it is a world-first study of the program.

"In NSW and US we have found reoffending rates were reduced, there was less prison disturbances and happier staff, but it has been mainly anecdotal reports," she said.

"We believe we are the first in the world to look at this in a scientific way.

Prof Rand said the dogs were introduced to kennels made by inmates at the prison in January and the students would begin researching initial results in two weeks.

She said the effect the puppies had on the inmates would be evaluated through questionnaires, prison visits, feedback from correctional officers and interviews with prisoners and staff.

"One of the exciting things we are looking at is whether the parenting skills will be improved with prisoners," she said.

"A lot of these prisoners have grown up where psychological and verbal abuse is the way to discipline children but you can't do that when training dogs."

Prof Rand said the dogs already appeared to have had a positive effect on the prisoners.

"Those prisoners are near the end of the first decade of their imprisonment, most commonly for serious violent offences," she said.

"If you look at their faces there is a softness there which speaks about the power of the human-animal bond."

Prof Rand said they hoped to expand the program and have dogs with behavioural problems being trained by inmates.

She said about 40 per cent of dogs who entered shelters were later euthanased - many due to behavioural problems.

"Behavioural problems in many cases can be corrected but it is labour intensive and costly," she said.

"But with prisoners with time on their hands it would be the perfect partnership."


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Posted: Apr 17, 2007 6:29am
Mar 31, 2006
Focus: Civil Rights
Action Request: Various
Location: United States
By Christina Jewett, The Sacramento Bee

March 26 - SACRAMENTO - A Sacramento attorney is suing Sacramento's Main Jail, saying his client's civil and religious rights have been denied since he has been refused a vegan diet. The inmate has been on a hunger strike since March 8, his attorney said.

Sacramento sheriff's officials say Eric Taylor McDavid, 28, is free to discard what he finds inedible, and still get a diet that meets nutritional standards.

McDavid is accused of conspiring to blow up Nimbus Dam and a nearby fish hatchery in Rancho Cordova, and a U.S. Forest Service genetics lab in Placerville.

Mark Reichel, McDavid's criminal attorney who also filed the federal lawsuit Friday, said his client is suffering.

"He's not doing well, he's disoriented, tired and fatigued," Reichel said. "This really is beneath the dignity of a society that calls itself civilized."

Reichel is suing under a 2000 law that protects the religious rights of institutionalized people.

Reichel said McDavid has been a vegan for three years, and equates his avoidance of animal products to a religion.

"His vegan diet is based upon his strongly, sincerely and firmly held beliefs, which are the same as a religious belief," the lawsuit states.

Sacramento sheriff's legal affairs Lt. Scott Jones said he considers veganism to be a lifestyle choice. Nonetheless, he said, a dietitian has met with McDavid to determine that even if he discards animal products from his daily meals, his diet meets his nutritional needs.

Jones said McDavid has also been seen by the medical staff several times about his diet.

In general, Jones said, the department makes dietary accommodations for medical reasons, but not religious. He said people who keep kosher, halal and vegetarian diets can supplement their diets with items for sale in the jail's commissary. "They can not eat what they perceive as offensive and still get the minimum nutrition," he said.

Jerry Read of the Corrections Standards Authority, which regulates the state's jails, said his office does not regulate religious diets.

"Case law changes too often," he said. "It comes up a lot - I don't know how many lawsuits there are, but enough that we can't keep up with it."
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Posted: Mar 31, 2006 9:28am


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