Prison PUP Partnership
Exceptionally Trained Assistance Dogs
90-95% of NEADS puppies are trained in correctional facilities throughout New England. NEADS began the Prison PUP Partnership in 1998 at North Central Correctional Center in Gardner, Massachusetts. Since then, we’ve added nine additional participating prisons to our partnership. Our statistics show that dogs trained by prison inmates complete the additional required advanced training in half the time of dogs raised exclusively in foster homes. Inmates are able to provide more consistent training at a higher level simply because of the amount of time they are able to devote to the dogs. This enables us to place dogs faster with people in need.
Our Inmate Trainers
Each inmate that applies to be a puppy trainer must meet certain criteria in behavioral history and must make a 12-18 month commitment. A liaison assigned to the NEADS program conducts initial interviews to select inmate handlers and then a NEADS trainer conducts secondary interviews to ensure that the handlers selected are appropriate for the program. The men and women who are selected are usually described as model inmates with exceptional records. NEADS maintains consistent, ongoing communication with correctional officers, inmates and prison administrators at all times. The influence of the Prison PUP Partnership on the men and women in prison is tremendous, and even the officers and inmates who do not participate in the program report that the presence of NEADS dogs changes the atmosphere for everyone.
Each puppy lives with an inmate handler (a backup inmate participates in case the primary handler is unable to complete the program). Puppies spend most of their time with the primary handler going to classes, recreation areas, and dining halls. Each puppy sleeps in his or her primary handler’s dormitory-like room.
NEADS trainers make regular visits to each participating prison to conduct classes for the inmates in the program. In class, the inmates learn how to teach their puppy tasks and exceptional obedience skills. In addition, they learn how to groom and properly care for their puppy, provide basic first aid, and monitor canine health. The NEADS staff trainers assess each puppy to make training recommendations and assign homework for the handler.
Inmates provide the puppies with socialization by bringing the dogs with them whenever possible. Whether going to a medical appointment, the TV lounge, or the family and friends visiting room, the puppy is usually right by the handler’s side.
To ensure that the puppies have a full range of experiences, volunteers help out by socializing the puppies on weekends. These weekend puppy raisers, specially trained in socialization skills by NEADS, are assigned to a puppy for the entire time the dog is in the prison program. Puppies spend their weekends at a volunteer’s home and follow the volunteer’s routine around town. This way, the puppies become accustomed to things like car rides, traffic, bus stations, movie theaters, restaurants, grocery stores, and all the typical experiences of life.
Our Prison PUP Partnerships
NEADS currently has partnerships with approximately 10 prisons around New England. There are usually six to eight (and as many as 12) puppies in every facility. Each prison administration decides how many dogs it can house and raise comfortably. Most facilities designate a section of housing for the program where handlers are given single rooms to accommodate the inmate and puppy. Our current Prison PUP Partnerships (which are subject to change) include:
- Bay State Correctional Center, Norfolk, Massachusetts
- FMC Devens, Ayer, Massachusetts
- JJ Moran Medium I, Cranston, Rhode Island
- MCI Concord, Concord, MA
- MCI Framingham, Framingham, Massachusetts
- MCI Norfolk, Norfolk, Massachusetts
- MCI Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts
- MCI Shirley*, Shirley, Massachusetts
- North Central Correctional Institution, Gardner, Massachusetts
- Northeastern Correctional Center, Concord, Massachusetts
*Our partnership with MCI Shirley is the only one like it in the country. MCI Shirley inmates who are involved in our program are dedicated solely to the training of hearing dogs for people who are deaf or have hearing loss.