Shane Hawkins has spent three years behind bars working with dogs to make them more adoptable.
Early on in his sentence, Hawkins joined Gwinnett County Detention Center's "Jail Dogs" program in Georgia. Through Jail Dogs, both inmates and man's four-legged best friend are given a second chance.
Canines saved from euthanasia are matched with inmates with whom they sleep, eat, and live along side. Each dog has a primary, secondary, and sometimes tertiary handler to provide continuity in the event that one of the handlers completes his or her sentence before the dog gets permanently re-homed.
Hawkins said that having the dogs to care for during his sentence has been life-changing, prompting him to write a book from his jail cell detailing what he's learned. The book, titled "Troubled to Trained," touches on dog behavior, presenting Hawkins' hands-on research of why dogs act certain ways.
Most recently, Hawkins has been paired with a dog named Lee. Hawkins said that his time with canines has showed him the similarity between dogs and humans, encouraging him to share his belief that people can learn from dogs—and his book—too.
According to the jail's officials, this is the first recorded instance of an inmate writing and publishing a book.
The Jail Dog program isn't the first of its kind, with dogs, cats, and even horses being trained, rehabilitated, and cared for by inmates across the country in restorative justice programs.
Exotic rescue animals at the Sheriff's Farm that have found a sanctuary underneath the Monroe County Jail are cared for by inmates that showcase good behavior. Located in Stock Island just outside of Key West, Florida, the jail farm is home to pigs, llamas, skunks, rabbits, and even a resident emu and sloth.
Gwinnett County's Jail Dogs, however, is somewhat rare in that more often prisons participate in the animal training programs, not detention centers where the inmates have a shorter stay. Ensuring that the dogs have multiple handlers makes any short-term sentence a non-issue.
Hawkins is serving a 15-year sentence for drug, theft, and DUI charges. His book is available from Amazon.
How have you seen restorative justice programs working? Tell us in the comments below!
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