Students Dig into 'Pawsitive' Prison Program
Last spring, Assistant Professor of Sociology Jacqueline van Wormer assigned a doggone interesting service-learning project to the 25 students in her Courts & Corrections class. The project grew out of research she had conducted and published in The Prison Journal on prison inmate dog-handler programs.
Van Wormer assigned her students to analyze the Pawsitive Dog program at Airway Heights Corrections Center. The 10-week program pairs prison inmates with rescue dogs. The inmates first receive training and then teach the dogs skills, from responding to basic commands to performing advanced tricks. The dogs even sleep in the inmates' cells. Research has shown that the program has a positive impact on all involved. Van Wormer's study revealed that inmates who participate in the program have fewer grievances and less infractions, which helps create a safer prison environment.
Her students attended the Pawsitive Dog graduation ceremony and then worked with the inmates in-person to compile a SWOT analysis, identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the program.