LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) – A new program at an Oklahoma correctional facility is having a major impact on the inmates and four-legged friends in need.
While at the Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility, a select group of inmates is able to own dogs from a local shelter, Rainbow Bridge Can Wait. The inmates are responsible for caring for the abandoned animals every day.
“They are dropped off animals. They are abandoned animals and now they have somebody who loves them, who takes care of them, who trains them,” Matthias Zehfuss, with Zehfuss K-9 Training Center, told KSWO.
Once a week, a dog trainer comes into the facility to work with the dogs and the inmates, giving them instructions on what to teach the dogs the following week.
“It’s changed the whole atmosphere in the whole pod. Everybody loves the dogs. They bring joy to everybody,” said Jarred Priest, an inmate.
Officials say not only are the dogs getting the attention they deserve, but the inmates are also learning self-respect and self-esteem.
There are several requirements that inmates must meet in order to be selected for the program.
“I have a stack of 200 applications right now,” said Dean Caldwell, assistant facility administrator over programs at the facility.
Inmates say that the program has reduced the violence in the prison, and provided a stress reliever for inmates.
“People come to my cell daily just wanting to pet the dog. They it’s a real stress reliever. ‘Man, we appreciate it.’ I say, ‘Anytime, anytime,'” Priest said.
After eight weeks, the dogs are then put up for adoption.