Second chances

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category icon Editorials, Opinion

Kathy Quinn, abused as a child, ran away from home when she was just 13 years old. Living on the streets of Los Angeles, she found herself placed in psychiatric ward after psychiatric ward where she says she was beaten and tortured.

Quinn’s unlikely saving grace, she says, turned out to be a stray German shepherd named Joni. In each other, they found what they needed — unconditional love. This inspired Quinn to begin making some major changes in her life, most significantly to put her focus on helping others.

From this, the “Pathways to Hope” dog obedience training program was born. But this wasn’t any dog training endeavor. The first of its kind, it was located at the Washington State Correctional Center for Women and involved inmates providing obedience training to dogs that would go on to assist disabled people. Founded by Quinn in 1981, it was so successful that it was eventually brought to 40 prisons in 24 states and several countries.

Quinn, who later became Dominican nun Pauline Quinn, told a Green Bay, Wisconsin newspaper in 2013: “My hope is the inmates learn to become ‘other’ centered. They need to use the pain in their lives to focus on helping others. That will give meaning to the inmates’ own pain and suffering,”

Right here in Clark County, a pet training camp at the Larch Corrections Center seems to be impacting inmates, animals and the community the way Quinn intended.

As detailed in an article in today’s Post-Record, 10 residents at the minimum security facility in Yacolt are participating in the second installment of a pet training camp for the Humane Society for Southwest Washington dog adoption program. During each 8-week session, participating offenders live with their assigned dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They provide invaluable training and socialization opportunities.

These kinds of programs are a win-win for all involved.

Studies of individual prison dog training programs have shown that they are beneficial to both dog and inmate. While the dog learns to trust, be obedient and love, inmates create a powerful and unconditional bond with another living being who relies on them. Inmates receive valuable training that can be used once they are outside of prison. In many cases, participation in dog training programs has shown to reduce recidivism.

These partnerships between prisons and humane societies are powerful and have positive impacts that extend far beyond the guarded prison walls.