Baldwin Jail-Dog program helps everyone involved

Marley "sits pretty" for her trainer as a Canines and Corrections student observes / Georgia College

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- Criminal justice students at Georgia College get a unique perspective as part of their "canines and corrections" course.

The students observe how inmates at the Baldwin County Jail interact with dogs.

The program at Riverbend Correctional Facility began in June 2015 and allows the inmates to train dogs and prepare them for adoption.

Dr. Alesa Liles teaches the class and said the students compare real-life observations to research studies.

Currently there are 18 inmates who work in pairs with eight dogs. They are taught basic obedience skills and house or crate training.

Liles said the program improves the morale of the inmates, which makes the officers' days easier.

"It makes them feel like someone needs them again," said Debra Campbell, a Baldwin County Animal Control volunteer. "I've had a trainer say to me 'I used to sleep until noon. I didn't know when I was going to get out of bed. Now I can't wait until the 4 potty call so I can take my dog outside to go to the bathroom.' How small of a thing is that to be excited about?"

She said the students' interest makes the inmates feel valued and that they enjoy sharing their knowledge with the students.

"It was kind of humbling and a school experience to see that they really wanted to put on a show and to see how much their dog can do," said student Mackenzie Roux.

Being able to converse with "people from the outside" who are interested in them is a "treasured reward" according to Campbell.

The jail-dog program is one of only four in the state and has saved over 20 dogs from being euthanized.

Campbell said one former inmate even adopted the dog he trained after he was released.

The inmates can use the skills they learn from the program to get jobs after prison.

The program's success is allowing it to expand and provide emotional support dogs for veterans.

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