OPERATION SECOND CHANCE : JAIL DOGS

We are looking into how we can help take this concept to other Counties.

This interview between Rob and Sheriff Butch Conway appeared in the Sixes Living, The Townlaker and Around Woodstock Magazines, April 2016 edition :

Rob with Gwinnett Sheriff, Butch Conway and his dog JP.
Rob with Gwinnett Sheriff, Butch Conway and his dog JP.
Playing basketball at Gwinnett County jail.
Playing basketball at Gwinnett County Jail.

I went to the Gwinnett County jail. First I went to Sheriff Conway’s office and talked to him and asked him questions about his Jail Dogs program and how me and my mom will try and bring it to Cherokee County. Sheriff Conway’s dog is from Hurricane Katrina. Then I went to see the dogs that the inmates in the jail train and take care of. I saw Roxy who is a yellow pitbull Labrador mix, Sonya who does lots of tricks and is black and white, and

Sonya does lots of tricks
Sonya does lots of tricks

Bandit whose back legs do not work. I also found a basketball hoop in there and made a shot from half court. I also went to the cat section which is in the laundry section with the women inmates. These were my questions to Sheriff Conway:

How long have you been doing this?

Sheriff Conway: Since 2010

How many dogs and cats have you rescued?

Bandit's back legs are attached to a little cart.
Bandit’s back legs are attached to a little cart.

Sheriff Conway: 295+ dogs. Cats are a relatively recent introduction, 41 cats so far.

How many dogs and cats are here right now?

Sheriff Conway: 17-20 dogs and 10-15 cats.

Who should I talk to to get Jail Dogs in Cherokee County?

Sheriff Conway: The Sheriff. Who is changing.

How do you choose the prisoners?

Sheriff Conway: By classification (dangerous or not). They must have good behavior in jail. They must have not committed a crime of violence or involving animal abuse. There is a long waiting list to get into this program and it is interesting in that it is quite common for competing gang members to bond over the care and training of the dogs.

Do the dogs sleep in the cells?

Sheriff Conway: They have a kennel in the cells, but most sleep in bed with the prisoner.

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The following article appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on February 21, 2016.  It was written by Karen Huppertz whose bio is included below.

Jail dog program gives inmates, animals second chance

Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway loves animals. He also believes in second chances. He believes in second chances not only for jail inmates, but also for the many abandoned furry “inmates” who land at the Gwinnett Animal Control Shelter.

Sheriff Butch Conway
Sheriff Butch Conway

Operation Second Chance, known as the jail dog program, began in 2010 as a partnership among Sheriff Conway, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department and the Society of Humane Friends of Georgia. The program saves dogs in danger of euthanasia.

Currently male inmates, located at the Gwinnett County Detention Center, are paired with dogs to provide training prior to adoption to “forever homes.” In October 2013, the program added cats in a separate unit with female inmates.

The sheriff and his staff provide the inmate housing unit, supervision, screening and selection of inmates for the program. Non-violent offenders with no history of animal abuse may apply to participate and are given training in how to work with the dogs and cats to prepare them for adoption. There are currently 23 male inmates working with 17 dogs, and about 15 female inmates working with 10 cats.

dog training

According to Deputy Jason Williams, who oversees the program, the jail dogs change lives. He has observed inmates behavior improve thanks to the accountability and purpose the program provides.

Amanda Sutton, an inmate handler working with cats, says the program gives her something to look forward to every day and offers her a chance to show responsibility.

Not only does the program give inmates something constructive to do with their time, it teaches them the benefits of positive reinforcement. These are skills they often take back into their life after incarceration making them better employees and parents.

“One inmate told me being part of this program was the first time he’d ever known unconditional love,” says Deputy Shannon Volkodav.

The program isn’t taxpayer funded. The Society of Humane Friends of Georgia provides all financial support, selects the dogs, coordinates veterinary care, handles the adoption process and supports volunteer efforts by the trainers and others.

Since its inception, the program has rescued 285 dogs and 40 cats from certain death. And while the program isn’t currently tracking recidivism of inmates, the deputies in charge are confident these inmates are not returning to crime as readily. Many continue volunteering with the program after their release.

It’s not hard to see that everyone involved is receiving more than a second chance.

Links:

AJC Article : http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/community-voicesjail-dog-program-gives-inmates-ani/nqSQ2/

Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office : https://www.facebook.com/gwinnettsheriff/?fref=ts

Jail Dogs : www.jaildogs.org

Society of Humane Friends of Georgia : https://www.facebook.com/sohfga/

Writer’s Bio :

Headshot 5 smaller crop copyKaren Huppertz writes as a regular columnist and freelance reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covering Gwinnett county. In addition, she is the current president of the International Dyslexia Association Georgia Branch and a strong advocate for early identification and appropriate remediation for children who struggle to read. Karen is a South Carolina native, but has lived in Georgia most of her adult life and is a Gwinnett county resident. She holds a bachelors degree from Winthrop University and has a background in marketing and advertising prior to her life as a journalist. You can reach her at karenhuppertz@gmail.com and follow her work at karenhuppertz.wordpress.com or on facebook.