ROLAND, Ark. — Bringing rescue dogs and inmates together for everyone’s benefit is the mission of Paws in Prison.
Participants involved in this program have a much lower recidivism rate. Currently, the Arkansas Department of Correction rate for those who re-offend is about 53%, but for Paws In Prison participants that number drops to 10%.
It only takes speaking to those involved to learn why.
“I’m not ashamed of it…I learned from it. It’s just something that I went through and I believe I was prepared for what I am doing now.” says Tracy Owen.
Tracy spent 17 years in prison for a drug conviction. After serving about ten years, she said it tougher than ever, and then one day she was introduced to a new program called Paws in Prison. It was because of this program she found her passion.
“The dog gives you a purpose. Now, its relying on you, and you’re doing your best because you want to make the dog successful and you want to be successful. I took it very serious,” Tracy recalls.
When it came time for her release from ADC last year, Tracy had earned several dog training certifications – a skill allowing her to be paroled with a career waiting at “Carrie’s Camp.”
“It’s not just about learning to train dogs – this program is about learning to work together,” says Carrie Kessler, Owner of Carrie’s Camp, a professional trainer and Executive Director of Last Chance Arkansas. “Its about learning to take instruction and learning to provide instruction to other inmates new to the program” she says.
Paws In Prison opens doors to skills inmates wouldn’t have a chance to learn any other way. “Its really hard when you’re a felon,” Tracy says, “I know there’s a lot of girls that can’t get jobs, but now I have a skill that is sought after,” she says.
To Tracy its a program is about redemption and hope, not only for inmates like herself, but also for their furry counterparts – many of which are saved from euthanation, trained, and then adopted to good homes.
“I feel like It’s a blessing all the way around,” Tracy concludes.
A mutual healing process of recovery – a second chance of the heart.