Prison pups, inmates celebrate 10 year partnership

(Justin White, WPRI-TV)

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI/AP) — The Rhode Island Department of Corrections marked the 10th anniversary Tuesday of the Prison PUP Partnership, which puts prison inmates to work training dogs to assist deaf and disabled people.

Inmates at the John J. Moran Medium Security Facility have been working with the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), training dogs in basic obedience and more complex skills. An advanced trainer visits the prison weekly to check on the progress of each inmate-handler and the dog assigned to him.

At a gathering at the Moran facility Tuesday, several inmates presented their charges’ skills in a demonstration, turning home light switches on and off, opening refrigerators and grabbing telephone receivers.

Inmates at the facility have trained more than 100 puppies, and about 60 puppies have graduated.

NEADS CEO Gerry DeRoche said across the NEADS program, about 55 clients a year have had dogs placed, giving them more independent lives. He also thanked inmates for their dedication to the job and the work.

Sergio Desousarosa, a warden at Moran, said the program not only allows inmates to repay the community, it also brings a level of tranquility that’s uncommon in a correctional facility.

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