heroic dog stories

Meet the PRISON DOGS of This Maximum Security Prison!

Across the United States, wardens of various prisons have initiated a certain kind of prison program, inspired by the success of a program implemented by Burl Cain, former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary is more commonly called Angola. The name Angola is a reference to the antebellum plantation owner who had possessed the land on which the prison was constructed. Angola is the largest maximum security prison in America.

Burl Cain became warden of Angola in ______. In the years prior to his succession, Angola had developed a notorious reputation of violence and rape. The reason for the prisoners’ brutality is that over 75% were (and still are) serving life sentences without hope of parol.

Immediately, Cain realized the need to instill a new hope in the prisoners. This hope would need to evoke morality and good behavior even when the inmates realized they’d never get out.

Burl Cain’s subsequent, non-institutional methods have been praised as innovative by his advocates and controversial by those who don’t like him or the prison. However, no one has been able to deny the extraordinarily positive results.  

Most of the methods Cain has implemented (in particular: ‘Christianize’ the prison) are beyond the scope of this blog. However, I believe that Cain’s last program introduced before retiring would certainly intrigue Max + Maude readers.

It has to do with service dogs!

In this program, service dog organizations donate untrained canines to the prison. Angola guards pair the dogs with certain inmates who will then train the dogs themselves. Aside from nighttime, when the dogs are placed in a cage, the dogs are with inmates every hour of the day.

This new program is called the Prisoners Assisting Warrior Services program (PAWS).

PAWS is headed by Major Keavin Tanner and his wife, Master Sergeant Sarah Tanner. Major Tanner supervises 23 trainers and 14 dogs. The dogs are trained for a year and master up to 30 commands.

Normally, fewer than half of dogs in training graduate as certified service dogs. At Angola, PAWS boasts a 75% certification rate. The reason, those at Angola claim, is the intimate relationship prisoners develop with the canines.

Some of the Angola-trained dogs begin work at the prison itself. These canines perform traditional tasks such as being guard dogs or search-and-find dogs. Some of the dogs become narcotics detectors!

True to Angola’s non-institutional reputation, however, the tasks performed by dogs go beyond guarding and detecting. One thing these amazing dogs do is help out in the hospice section of the prison. (Prison hospice was also something that Burl Cain pioneered.)

Credit: Fred R. Conrad: Photojournalist for NY Times

The dogs at Angola prison have made a dramatic difference on prison life. This program simply demonstrates another way dogs are man’s best friend!

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