Inmate Perceptions: The Impact of a Prison Animal Training Program

  • Mims D
  • Waddell R
  • Holton J
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Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perceptions of jail inmates participating in the Paws and Stripes College program. The Paws and Stripes College program involves incarcerated inmates training local humane shelter canines' obedience training techniques using the canine good citizen model as well as teaching the canines skills in which to participate as comfort/emotional support dogs. Using secondary data from self-report questionnaires completed by the inmates, this study sought to explore how the inmates felt before and after their exposure to the Paws and Stripes College program. Specifically, if the inmates felt that participation in the program was beneficial to them or not, and if so, how. Methods: The jail staff administered and collected the questionnaires via a self-report instrument completed by the inmates Each inmate in the Paws and Stripes College program were asked to complete a self-report questionnaire reflecting on the time they are serving in the jail and time they have participated in the Paws and Stripes College program regarding how they felt before joining the Paws and Stripes College program, how they feel being a part of the Paws and Stripes College program, and how if they believed they program made an impact on the dogs and the community and if so, how. Each self-reported questionnaire was collected, transcribed, and analyzed for common themes. Results: All participants experienced positive reactions while participating in the Paws and Stripes College program, feeling the program equipped them with perceived increased employment skills and communication skills. The Paws and Stripes College program improved their emotional state by offering them more self-confidence, patience and increased animal training skills. The inmates indicated the animal training they had learned helped them better address both the canine's they were working with and their own emotions and conflicts, increased coping strategies for everyday situations, and improved their outlook during their incarceration, and each believed the training would help them with employment and their personal lives after their release. Inmates felt they had taken from society and by participating in the Paws and Stripes program they were able to give back to society. Conclusion: The Paws and Stripes College program has a positive impact on inmate increased knowledge and skills in animal training leading them to better communication, conflict resolution, and interpersonal behaviors which are believed to enhance future employability, self-confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, the inmates were impressed with the enhanced adoptability of the shelter canines that completed the training, and their service to the community. Correctional facilities may want to consider recommending an inmate and canine training program as a viable intervention for improving inmates' behavior and emotional states during incarceration and improve chances for inmates' successful functioning by assisting with finding meaningful employment once they are released. In addition, the homeless canines benefit by the Paws and Stripes College program by not being euthanized, finding valued homes to care for them, and the ability to provide useful service to both families and those with special needs.

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Mims, D., Waddell, R., & Holton, J. (2017). Inmate Perceptions: The Impact of a Prison Animal Training Program. Sociology and Criminology-Open Access, 05(02). https://doi.org/10.4172/2375-4435.1000175

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