March 24, 2023

Friday, September 16th 2022, 6:50 pm
The Dick Conner Correctional Facility is celebrating five years of its STAR Prison Dog Training Program.
Eight dogs spent the past 10 weeks at the facility in Hominy learning various obedience skills, and now the pups finally get to show them off.
The dogs are leaving the correctional center to go to their forever homes, after spending the past 10 weeks being trained by inmates.
John Oxford is one of the inmates who has been training dogs since the beginning of the program. He said his dog Biz did a great job at his training test.
“He did great, he is going to make somebody a loving pet, real good fur companion,” Oxford said.
While each of these newly trained dogs are very excited to go to their new homes, the real story is the impact the training program is having on both the prisoners and the culture inside the prison.
“It does way more for me than I could ever do for it, it teaches me to learn to love something else,” Oxford said.
“They know they have to maintain good behavior and be compliant with the rules to participate,” Warden Janet Dowling said. “The other guys on the waitlist know the same thing, they know they have to be very well-behaved to get into the program, it’s a very positive influence for the yard.”
Freddy Mendez is serving a life sentence. He said the days can go by slow here, but having the responsibility of a pet has changed his outlook.
“I’ll never get to go home, so the fact a little bit of me can go with him is amazing. And the chance of him to get a forever home since I won’t get to go home, I think is awesome,” Mendez said.
The program has brought in more than 100 dogs over the past five years. The warden said the men get more out of it than the dogs ever could.
“As the DOC, it’s our job to help them find a better way, so when they become our neighbors again they hopefully don’t repeat the same behaviors and crimes. And a large part of that is learning how to care for something besides yourself,” Dowling said.
Prison leaders said they are looking forward to growing the program and bringing more dogs in every year.
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