A program that gives some Rock County Jail inmates the chance to train dogs for adoption has resumed after nearly a year on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canine Corrections Academy last week welcomed Suzie, a 2.5-year-old Australian shepherd mix from the Southern Wisconsin Humane Society. Suzie will live with inmates in the Rock County Education and Criminal Addictions Program, also known as RECAP, and they will train her in basic obedience and socialization skills.

The program was established in 2014 and pairs otherwise unadoptable dogs with inmates who train them to be good pets.

A trainer from the humane society will work with inmates twice a week to train Suzie and other dogs.

The interaction is invaluable to the inmates and helps them develop life skills, including patience, responsibility, compassion and self-esteem, said Sgt. Jay Williams of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are excited, and the inmates certainly are,” Williams said.

He said jail staff came up with a plan to ensure safety protocols are in place in case a RECAP member is exposed to the coronavirus.

“We were just trying to figure out the best route to take before starting it back up again,” Williams said.

The training program has been an asset for the RECAP program, he said.

“We thought it would have a calming effect on those in the jail,” Williams said. “I understood that it would work, although I was skeptical of what it was actually going to do. Once the dogs started coming in, any doubts I had went away.”

Williams said the inmates understand the responsibilities that come with the program.

“They turn into big kids,” he said. “They’re protective of the dogs, and everyone knows that the dog comes first. It’s done everything we’ve thought it would do and more.”

At the end of each academy, each dog takes a test for Canine Good Citizenship certification and is up for adoption upon completion.