Putnam Correctional Institution in Palatka, FL is not only temporary housing to convicted felons, but it’s also a safe haven for 4 pit bull type dogs as part of the TAILS (Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills) program run by Pit Sisters.
This is our second visit to a TAILS program facility and after a series of approvals from the State of Florida Department of Corrections, photo releases and logistical preparations, we were granted unprecedented access to the dorms, to see how the inmates interact with their rescue dogs.
With a few guidelines, for security reasons, we were able to capture real interactions with inmates and their dogs where they sleep side by side. The dogs even participate in “count time” and know that it’s time to go to their kennels.
The facility has 4 dogs in the program and each one has a handler and trainer.
“Having dogs inside the institution is not only good for the dogs and the inmates but they also provide stress relief for the staff” Warden Jeffcoat told us. “It’s a privilege to be in this program and we have seen the inmates who participate make a huge transition when it comes to their overall behavior.”
Putnam Correctional Institution is not a permanent solution for the dogs or the inmates. The maximum sentence is 15 years and the dogs stay in the program for about 16 weeks. Inmates on the verge of being released have adopted their dog, their families have adopted them on their behalf and some dogs have been adopted by the staff.
Being able to capture how the dogs and inmates interact was a breathtaking experience. The dogs were so calm, focused and loved the attention their inmate handlers and trainers gave them. Once the dogs graduate, they’re going to make wonderful family pets. TAILS hopes to replace the dogs once they graduate as soon as possible to start the program over again.
The dogs are loved, socialized and trained practically 24/7 and knowing what their outcome could have been, being on the euthanasia list, just makes the benefits of TAILS astronomical.
Once we wrapped up the photo shoot, we left each dog with a head rub, the inmates with a smile and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that the dogs and the inmates are getting a second leash on life.
For $300 you can be the sponsor of a TAILS dog and save a life. You will be able to choose your dog, receive updates from the inmates about your dog, and attend graduation where you will meet the dog, the trainers and the new adopters. To sponsor a TAILS Dog, contact Jen Deane at [email protected].
You can learn more about TAILS and Pit Sisters at pitsisters.org.