STOCKTON (CBS13) — Inmates doing time in a Stockton prison have a new job behind bars—puppy training.
Cody and Simon will be doing 16 to 18 months in prison. They aren’t inmates, they’re puppies who will be getting obedience training from seven inmates selected for their good behavior.
The California Health Care Facility is partnering with Canine Companions For Independence, a nonprofit that gives service dogs to people with disabilities free of charge.
After their time with the inmates, the pups will go back to professional trainers to learn specialized skills, and then be paired with the people who need them.
“Being able to have a dog pick up a cellphone or a pencil that a person might drop in their college class can make a huge difference, in that they don’t have to ask a person for help,” said James Dern.
Trainers come once a week, sometimes bringing an older dog to set a good example. The inmates live with the dogs, training them every day.
“Instead of just doing my daily routine, trying to get through the day, I have a little fuzzy happy guy to wake up to and look forward to and take care of,” said inmate James Dern. “It gives me purpose.”
It’s only been two weeks, but Warden Brian Duffy already knows he’s going to expand the program and get more dogs.
“I interviewed these inmates before they started in the program and what a change as far as their personalities, that they’ve kind of blossomed,” he said.
The dogs light up faces all across the prison yard. Inmates like Woody Hume say they never thought they’d be able to help other people behind bars.
“To contribute something back,” he said. “When you’ve taken, taken, taken your whole life and you can finally give something back and help somebody else out, it really feels—I can’t even describe it.”