Lending a Paw
Since the dawn of time, dogs have helped humans to survive and thrive. They’ve warned us of encroaching danger, and offered love and unwavering loyalty. It comes as no surprise that we turn to these furry creatures to help us to learn, to heal, and to address the needs of the incarcerated.
The power of dogs is central to Kimberly Collica-Cox’s Parenting, Prison and Pups program for incarcerated women. Collica-Cox, a professor of Criminal Justice and Security and an expert in inmate rehabilitation, is leading the development of this first-of-its-kind program to use dog-assisted therapy to enhance prisoner-parenting classes for female inmates. In partnership with the Good Dog Foundation and local New York correctional facilities, the program’s goal is to improve communication between inmates and their children, both of whom experience trauma, anxiety and stress as a result of their separation from one another, and ultimately reduce recidivism.
“Dogs facilitate a connection of trust and acceptance and they provide a secure environment, which in jail is difficult to achieve,” explains Collica-Cox. During the classroom sessions, the dogs will be available for the women to pet and interact with as they explore topics that are emotionally stressing. “The dogs will help mitigate these feelings and promote a safe environment, which in turn will produce more open and useful communication between the group members.”
Pace students will also have the opportunity to participate in the program through a service-learning course. It will be a unique opportunity for students to work with an incarcerated population. Collica-Cox explains the potential for creating lasting change, “Corrections is a neglected field in criminal justice and one of the least preferred career choices of criminal justice students. Students will be exposed to working in the field of corrections at a pivotal point in their education when they are deciding upon career trajectories.” The course will be available in 2017.