Letter: Dog programs offer solution in criminal justice reform

229
SHARE
COMMENTARY

To the editors,

The Oklahoma voters said, loud and clear, they wanted Criminal Justice Reform. Then the elected officials decided we — the voters — were wrong. We were right.

For the past seven years I have been involved with inmate/shelter dog-training programs. First with the trainers at the Lexington prison, and now with the trainers at the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center. Not only have I seen it firsthand, the 2013 documentary The Dogs of Lexington (above) validates the program’s impact on inmates, their families and the dogs they train. I know, I’m in the documentary.

For the most part, there is no rehabilitation involved when someone is incarcerated. Get permission to visit a prison, look at the hundreds of men (or women) idly walking about, trying to pass time between inmate count, which occurs every two hours (or more frequently). If you spend time getting to know someone, you will probably discover they’re in for a long time on a non-violent crime, and they will owe a lot of money if/when they are released. In addition, if granted parole they will be guaranteed $50.00, a half-way house and food stamps. Then comes the tough part finding a job (that is legal) with a prison record. Would you hire someone with a record? Think about it: They need a job, someone has to trust them.

For those inmates who are selected to be part of a dog-training program, they must have no – absolutely no – infractions. They will learn to be responsible for the daily needs of a pet, receive (and give) love to a dog, learn patience they never knew they had and, most importantly, realize they can make a difference in their personal lives. Letters from inmates in the program and their families validate the best ROI you could imagine.

Before we become a debtor’s prison state, let’s follow what the voters asked for: criminal justice reform. For me (and many of us in rescue), inmate/shelter dog programs are one of the solutions.

Kay Stout, Executive Director
Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter
Vinita, Oklahoma

(Editor’s Note: NonDoc believes in creating a responsible forum for the rational and respectful discussion of topics and ideas. As such, we run Letters to the Editors of 300 words and reserve the right to edit lightly for style and grammar. To submit a letter for potential publication, please write to letters@nondoc.com.)