Last year, Karma Rescue, a Los Angeles non-profit, dropped off five shelter dogs at the California State Prison in LA County. They were brought to the maximum-security, Level 4, facility to meet their new trainers: a group of inmates, some whom are serving life sentences.
While it might sound crazy, Paws for Life — a program that matches shelter dogs with prisoners for a 12-week training program to increase their chances for adoption — has been highly successful. A year later, 100-percent of the dogs, who were once at risk for not being adopted, have found permanent, loving homes.
But perhaps the reason for program’s success is not just what it can do for neglected shelter dogs.
Upon meeting their new companions, the prisoners selected for the program—men who had not seen an animal in decades—were openly emotional; for some, just petting the dogs brought them to happy tears.
While the inmates are working to give dogs a better chance at life, they are also finding themselves with a new sense of purpose. Beyond the rehabilitative therapy that a dog can provide, Karma Rescue says that the dogs help men with otherwise little contact to the outside community to connect to a larger a humanitarian process outside of the prison walls.
The California State Prison in LA County is the only prison in the state where inmates serving lifetime sentences train dogs. But Karma Recue has plans to expand the program to six other prisons. According to their web site, there are more than 100,000 prisoners housed in California’s 38 correctional facilities, while hundreds of thousands of dogs are euthanized each year across the state because they are deemed unadoptable.
By bringing two groups of outcasts together, both are getting a second chance at life.