Helper Dogs Teach Life Skills To Duluth Prisoners

By KBJR News 1

September 2, 2012 Updated Sep 2, 2012 at 11:05 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)
Duluth's minimum security Federal Prison Camp may not be Alcatraz but it's still no picnic.

"It is a prison. It is somewhat a negative environment any time you are in a prison environment." said Tim Rogers of the prison.

Even a minimum security inmate must live a regimented life with long periods of boredom.
In the last two months, relief from that life has trotted in on four paws.
The inmates are helping train service dogs from an organization called Paw Pads.

"In the process of training the dogs, they're giving back to the community. They're learning emotional regulation, vocational skills so it's a win win all the way around." said Linda Ball of PawPads.

Paw Pads stands for Pawsitive Perspectives Assistant Dogs.
It's a non–profit organization based in Savage, Minnesota.
The dogs are highly trained to help disabled people with their day to day lives.

"They are learning upwards of a hundred different tasks and commands so they learn how to turn on lights, tug open doors. They'll be able to pay at a counter with a credit card or money." said Ball.

They also learn to sniff out blood sugar trouble brewing for people with diabetes.
The prison inmate trainers also learn valuable skills.

"It helps teach the inmates living skills, empathy, compassion; some of the things they've never experienced before." said Rogers.

When the dogs are ready, they go to owners who need the skills they've learned from people paying their debt to society.

"There's tears, Absolutely. It's very difficult to give up a dog but knowing they are gong to help someone makes it a little easier." said Ball.

In Duluth, Dave Anderson, the Northland's News Center.

Paw Pads also has a program at Sandstone's Federal Prison.
Other trainers helping the group include school children and military veterans.