Change comes for both inmates and dogs in the Pawsitive Dog Prison Training Program at AHCC
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Inside the fence of Airway Heights Correctional Center, little changes from day to day. Routine is synonymous with life behind bars. This past Wednesday, though change there was welcome. It was good. It was healthy. It was hard.
“Its a happy moment and a sad moment,” explained inmate Joshua Phillips.
Graduation for the inmate handlers and the Spokane Humane Society pups in the Pawsitive Dog Prison Training Program. After ten weeks spent glued to each others side.
The morning started off with a show; tricks from the dogs to show off just how far they’ve come. Then, it was the inmates turn.
“Without the dogs, I’m not sure if I would have changed. Their love, trust and accomplishments help bring about psychological and emotional well-being in me. So who really benefits the most?” said Phillips in his speech.
The program has changed the 32 year-old’s life around.
“I used to be a bad guy,” he shared.
As he’d put it, he never had a chance in this world. At five years old, he watched his father kill his mother.
He explained, “I’ve been a victim, I know what it’s like. Now I know what it’s like to victimize someone else. I am not happy. It is the most horrible thing ever.”
He turned his anger in to violence.
“There’s so many people I wish I could apologize to. But I can’t. I don’t even know their names.”
Now, he’s paying with a life sentence. His ways to make amends are extremely limited. This program has given him the opportunity.
“This really is the only way to give back. Every twelve weeks, we are going to get a dog. Then that dog is going to go out. There’s 52 weeks in a year, so, we are talking at least four dogs a year. That’s four happy families.”
It’s helped in more ways than one. Joshua’s brother has also been in trouble with the law.
Recently, he started following his Joshua’s progress with the program and now calls him his role model.
“He’s like, ‘man, I’m really proud of you.’ Finally. It’s about time right? I’ve given him something good to be proud of.”
All 8 of the dogs involved were adopted out. Several to staff members who work at Airway Heights Correctional Center and have seen the good work of the program first hand. They say they’ll keep the inmates updated on their dog’s progress, and might need to reach out for a tip or two on keeping up with training!
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