Prisoners Pamper Pooches
For more information visit these links:
Show 1414: Prisoners Pamper Pooches
Air Date: April 6, 2014
Rob McClendon: Well, too many offenders leave prison unprepared to re-enter society. A felony conviction can make it hard to find a job, while continued bad habits can make it hard to keep one. But a successful Tulsa-based program is helping female offenders prepare for a second chance outside the prison gate. Our Alisa Hines reports.
Alisa: First a shampoo, then a trim and finally, a blow out. These dogs are receiving the full spa treatment, and at the same time they’re helping change lives.
Christy VanCleave: Muddy Paws is actually a really great program. What we do is we give people and dogs second chances. We give women that have criminal pasts a second chance. We train them in new careers. You can either be a kennel tech, bather/brusher, a pet stylist or a dog trainer.
Alisa: And Christy VanCleave knows all about second chances.
Christy: I have a little bit of a shaded past, but I had dog grooming to fall back on once I decided to get my act together. And a big part of it is that people that have been in trouble, if they’re a felon, they can’t get a job anywhere. And with that being said, you can’t raise a family on minimum wage or dead-end jobs. So the best thing to do is to make a livable wage. If you can make a livable wage, then you have the means to change your life. A lot of people that don’t do well with people do great with dogs. So combine the two, and you have a win-win situation.
Alisa: According to Roy Peters from Pets Helping People, animals are a good fit for this program.
Roy Peters: Oh, pets are a natural. This is just perfect. Now you could do this same kind of program with auto mechanics, for example, or with cosmetology, but pets are so loving, they give love back, and it’s just one more reinforcement for the positive that our students get.
Alisa: A commitment that starts bright and early every morning.
Christy: I leave really early in the morning, about 5:50 in the morning. I drive from out in Sand Springs, drive up to the prison, pick the women up, bring ’em to work in the morning. At the end of the day, drive ’em back out to the prison. And it is well worth it to go pick them up, to bring them here to our facility. I did go there and set everything up there but it isn’t quite the same. You really have to bring ’em here to get the full affect and teach ’em what they need to learn.
Alisa: For the ladies in this program like Kristi Dobbs and Ruby McClendon, it’s a real life saver.
Kristi Dobbs: It’s given me a chance to build my self-esteem, build my self-worth. It’s just so hard to put into words, you know. For 20 years I’ve done nothing but drugs, deal drugs. And I don’t know how to live a normal, respectable life so this is teaching me how to do that as well.
Ruby McClendon: But I know I’ve come a long, long way. And I’m proud of who I am today.
Alisa: And animals just make the job even better.
Ruby: The dogs, I love ’em. I talk to them just like I’m talking to you [laugh]. I can’t put it any other way than that. I just love them animals.
Kristi: I love working with the dogs. Dogs are fantastic. Just a fantastic job. I look forward to coming to it every day.
Alisa: It’s that kind of enjoyment in their work that helps those who complete the program find a job and stay out of prison.
Christy: We’ve had this program for four years now and up until 2014, we’ve had a perfect rate. We’ve had nobody re-offend. As of January 2014, we have had our first women re-offend. We are now at a 96 percent recidivism rate, which is fantastic. So I’m very, very happy of our record. Ninety-six recidivism rate is something to be very, very proud of. So that means teaching a career that they can make a livable wage is exactly what it takes to be successful. It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of community and education to be successful in life. And that’s all it takes.
Alisa: And Christy VanCleave says its takes the whole community to change a life and make them successful.
Christy: We don’t have to get the government’s money to make all these programs work as long as we all work together. And it just takes believing in our fellow man to know that all these people should not be forgotten about. They’re just like you and I, and if we all pull together we can change the world.
Alisa: Changing the world, one doggie do at a time.
Rob: Now, Christy tells us the program is free to not just female inmates, but felons wanting to change the direction of their life. Now, once completed, participants are given all the tools needed to be a dog groomer, making a livable wage and staying out of prison. Now, if you would like to learn more about work underway to help inmates succeed once paroled, you can read more about Oklahoma’s skills centers on our website, just head to okhorizon.com and look under our value added section, where we have a nice article and more videos.