Therapy Dog Kiki who has been trained by one of the prisoners
Therapy Dog Kiki who has been trained by one of the prisoners

Gatton’s toughest inmates become best therapy dog trainers

SOME of the states hardest criminals behind bars are helping people in need while turning their own lives around.

Inmates at the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre have showed off their skills as therapy dog trainers under a partner-program with Assistance Dogs Australia.

SQCC inmate trains her assistance dog. Photo: Hugh Suffell
SQCC inmate trains her assistance dog. Photo: Hugh Suffell

One of the prisoners who recently joined the program said how much she loved the opportunity to work with the pups and said it has given her life a purpose despite being in prison.

She described the emotional impact her dog Raven has had on her and said “every time I look into her eyes I want to cry”.

The therapy dogs being trained in the prison stay with the inmates 24/7.

Another inmate, referred to as Jo said “everything you do with the dog is training”.

Jo’s therapy dog Kiki will next week graduate from the program and move to Melbourne to become a court facility dog.

A prisoner trains her assistance dog to open the fridge door
A prisoner trains her assistance dog to open the fridge door

“Once she’s left I’ll be sad but can’t wait for the next challenge with a new dog,” Jo said.

She said for Kiki, even just sitting around for long periods of time was training because the dog might have to sit in a courtroom for 90 minutes or longer at a time.

“I feel ashamed of what I did but this amazing program has given me great satisfaction for the change we are making in people’s lives,” Jo said.

Another inmate who’s been in prison for “a long time” said she never thought she’d have the opportunity to be part of such a program and said she hasn’t looked back.

One of the therapy dogs that has been trained in prison
One of the therapy dogs that has been trained in prison

She said she feels she is bettering herself while also bettering society.

The prisoner said the biggest skill she had developed through the program was patience.

Nick Rowe, Prison Director at the SQCC said the program had been fantastic because the women did not have a focus when they came into prison.

He said it gave the inmates the opportunity to transition themselves back into the community and improve their lives.

Nick Rowe, SQCC Prison Director
Nick Rowe, SQCC Prison Director

Mr Rowe said the program had also seen an above 30 per cent improvement in the relations between the prisoners and their families because of the sense of care and compassion they develop.

He said there had been a 94 per cent increase in the women’s wellbeing as a result of their participation in the pups in prison program.

“Having a pup gives the women self-esteem,” Mr Rowe said.

SQCC inmate trains her assistance dog. Photo: Hugh Suffell
SQCC inmate trains her assistance dog. Photo: Hugh Suffell

Pups in Prison Facilitator, Peter Forbes said the program was a “win, win, win” scenario because more dogs can be trained to provide to recipients, with better outcomes for the dogs while also having a positive impact on the prisoners.

Mr Forbes said the dogs once trained go on to support people with PTSD, mental and physical disabilities or emergency services personnel.

He said the pups had also had a positive impact on prisoners with psychological issues because dogs are really good at reading humans emotions and will intervene and help.

Therapy dog at the SQCC
Therapy dog at the SQCC

To be part of the program, the inmates must show significant interest in wanting to turn their lives around.


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