JANESVILLE--A new partnership could keep stray dogs from being put down and jail inmates from returning to lives of crime.
A dog named Duke and an inmate named Ryan Lambert are the first in what officials hope will be many pairings designed to rehabilitate both dogs and inmates.
Duke, Lambert and officials of the Rock County Sheriff's Office and Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin introduced the Canine Corrections Academy to reporters Tuesday outside the Rock County Jail.
This is the first such program in a Wisconsin jail, although at least one state prison brings in dogs to encourage calmness among inmates, Sheriff Robert Spoden said.
Officials hope dogs from the humane society in Janesville will promote kindness and lessen “anger incidents” among inmates, but the program is designed to do more than that, officials said.
The program requires the inmates to train the formerly unadoptable dogs, getting them ready to be adopted in six to eight weeks. The process will teach the inmates and the dogs kindness, self-esteem and respect, said Allison Hokinson, humane society spokeswoman.
The inmates also will gain writing skills. They must keep journals of the experience.
The dogs will be housebroken and taught to come when called and to sit and stay on command. They won't be taught tricks, said Matt Pyne, one of two retired deputies who will be trainers/handlers for the program.
The program comes at no cost to taxpayers, Spoden said. Simmons Fence of Janesville donated a 50-by-30-foot enclosure. Pyne and Don Miller are donating their time as trainers/handlers. The humane society supplies the dog food.
An announcement will be made when a dog is ready for adoption. Interested people will be interviewed before being allowed to adopt. After the kinks are worked out, officials hope to have several dogs in the program at a time.
Many inmates have never completed anything in their lives, Spoden said, and the program will give some of them an opportunity to give back and to realize they can be productive members of their communities.
“People deserve second chances. Animals deserve second chances,” Spoden said.
Duke was a stray who fled from law enforcement, so the humane society's Jim Hurley was called to capture him.
“He was lost. He was afraid, and none of it was his fault,” said Brett Frazier, the society's executive director.
Inmates are chosen for the canine program through interviews. Their crimes must not include violence or abuse.
Lambert, 25, said he was in jail for violating probation.
Spoden said RECAP inmates typically have histories of drug and alcohol abuse and disorderly conduct.
The dog will live in the jail unit for the Rock County Education and Criminal Addiction Program, known as RECAP, where it will be caged at night. About 30 inmates live in the unit.
The dog will not interact with inmates in other jail units.
Frazier said the humane society receives thousands of animals each year and sends out about 1,000 for adoption. Some are euthanized because resources are limited.
Untrained dogs such as Duke are more likely to be euthanized, so the program will turn a dog who might be put down into one who is desirable, Frazier said.
Duke is a mutt that some might call a pit bull, although his head looks more like a Rottweiler. His coat and body are reminiscent of a brindled boxer.
Pit bull, Pyne said, implies that the dog is a fighter.
Duke displayed no aggressive behavior Tuesday, sitting calmly in the shade as officials took questions from reporters and suffering the TV cameras with no complaint.
Pyne said some of the RECAP inmates don't like dogs and are keeping their distance. For others, Duke reminds them of home.
“It gives them another reason to go home and go back to their kids and dogs and hopefully not come back to jail,” Pyne said.
As for Lambert, he knows he will bond with Duke and then say goodbye.
“It's part of the job,” he said. “I won't say I won't get attached. But the goal is to get him adopted. That's what we're going to do.”