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Prisoners train dogs with behavioral problems

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. - Prisoners at the Airway Heights Correction Center are helping stray dogs find new loving homes with a program to correct bad behavior.

Andy Flores is currently doing a life sentence for a non-violent crime. He has a lot of time on his hands and took special dog training courses with other inmates to help make dogs more adoptable. 

On Thursday, Flores and another inmate helped two dogs graduate the program.

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"(The dog) is a loving pet. He's well mannered, he's polite and he'll listen," said Flores. 

But in the course of helping the two dogs, the inmates learned something too. Offenders were forced to drop their guards and they found entire housing units became less tense. 

"Some of these guys probably haven't smiled in years. So it has an overall affect on the unit, which is positive. They love the dogs. You hear them say (to the dogs), 'Hi Spencer. Hi Wrigley.' So it's been wonderful for all the men living there," said Johna Goodall of the Airway Heights Corrections Center. 

Goodall is adopting one of the dogs. She may be getting a dog out of the deal but says the community may also see less reoffenders after the inmates are released. 

"These dogs came in and pretty much just opened up a lot of people's hearts. You know what I mean? (It) made people see themselves in a brighter light. I mean, everybody's had dogs when they were younger," said inmate Torrey Norman.

Prison officials can't spend any taxpayer dollars on letting dogs behind bars, so right now the program is funded solely by donations of Spokanimal. 

The corrections center said it is immediately tripling the size of its dog program. It hopes to have the pups in all of its eight housing units by the end of the year.