For young offenders in the Southwest Juvenile Hall system, there is an effort underway to instill values of responsibility and tolerance from a very unlikely source.
The Canine Support Teams, a local group founded in 1989 that provides specially trained dogs to people with disabilities for the purpose of gaining independence, is giving young inmates the chance to rehabilitate with some help from man’s best friend.
“The goal is to teach them how to take care of a dog. They teach the dogs obedience. The bottom line is it gives the kids a chance to learn responsibility by taking care of an animal,” said Canine Support Teams President/CEO Bruce Cripe.
Cripe said the inmates must demonstrate good behavior throughout the week in order to participate in the program each Wednesday and that most work hard to earn time with the dogs.
Additionally, the participants are inter-racially paired with other inmates as a way of inspiring a sense of cooperation and teamwork that is hoped will remain with the boys as they interact outside of the facility.
“They learn to work together with each other and with the dogs,” he said.
“Many of these kids have been in gangs or come from broken homes and have never cared for a dog,” Cripe said, noting that many of the boys are lacking positive role models.
Based on the success of the program at the French Valley facility, Cripe said that plans are in motion to work with at risk children in other local venues, for therapeutic and educational purposes.
Perhaps most significant is the fact that Canine Support Teams utilizes all shelter dogs for its program.
Cripe said, “We’re saving dogs’ lives, as well as saving kids’ lives.”
To learn more, visit www.caninesupportteams.org.
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.