‘Paws in the Pen’: Program pairs shelter puppies with inmates

[anvplayer video=”5190242″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The “Paws in the Pen” program at the state penitentiary in Santa Fe brings in pups to be teamed up with inmates.

For eight weeks, 14 inmates will train seven rescue dogs from the Española Humane Society – but the dogs aren’t the only ones learning.

“As the dog learns from us, we also learn from the dog,” said Joseph Lawry, an inmate.

The program gives inmates a chance to learn some skills they normally wouldn’t obtain inside prison walls.

“Responsibility, communication, love, you know, things that you need to be able to have in life, for sure,” said Aireyon Pero, another inmate.

The inmates agree that having furry friends around is a welcoming sight and a break from the everyday grind.

Mattie Allen with Española Humane says the effects of the program stay with the inmates even after they’re released, and play a huge role in preventing reoffending.

“Once dogs come into a facility, the level of incidents really just plummets,” Allen said.

The program first began in December 2021.

“The New Mexico Corrections Department is thankful and proud to be able to partner with various rescues across the State, including Española Humane, to offer dog programs at our facilities. The participating inmates must maintain good conduct to participate, and the inmates at PNM had to apply for the jobs,” said NMCD Spokesperson Brittany Roembach. “About 96% of our inmates will eventually return to society, so while the individuals are here, we are determined to do what we can with what we have to help create better neighbors. We believe the dog programs are one of the most powerful and healing rehabilitation tools we have to offer our inmates.”