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Apr 17, 2007
Focus: Civil Rights
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Location: United States
DOGS FACING LIFE IN JAIL

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."

From: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,21539788-5006007,00.html

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Posted: Apr 17, 2007 6:29am

 

 
 
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