Doing Good: Jail program tranforms inmates, helps find homes for rescued dogs
By Devika Rao
For the AJC
Susan Jacobs-Meadows had always wanted to find a way to help animals when she discovered a way to help people in the process.
In January 2012, she started Canine CellMates and began to develop a program that would be dedicated to reducing recidivism and improving the lives of inmates while saving dogs from euthanasia. After 18 months of working with Fulton County and the community, the program officially launched on June 3 at the Fulton County Jail.
“I had heard of these programs elsewhere, and really wanted to start this in Fulton County,” said Jacobs-Meadows, an avid dog lover. “I was looking to make a difference, and felt that with a program like this, we could really start to change people from in the inside and also help dogs find good homes.”
Canine CellMates takes dogs from high-kill Fulton County Animal Services and working with Lifeline Animal Project places them in residence in Fulton County Jail with inmate handlers. The handlers are responsible to care for, socialize and obedience train the dogs with the help of the organization’s team of certified dog trainers.
“By using positive training, we are also able to teach the inmates how to approach problems in a positive way. It is a true transformation we are seeing with the guys,” said J. Lennox Gavin, a professional dog trainer and director of training for Canine CellMates.
The organization thoroughly interviews inmates before accepting them into the program, and is currently working with six inmates and six dogs. The training sessions are 90 minutes every day for eight weeks.
With one more month left until graduation, the organization held a meet-and-greet Saturday at Newtown Park in Alpharetta. It gave the community a chance to learn about the program and also meet the dogs. After training and successful completion of the Canine Good Citizen Certification, the dogs will be eligible for adoption so more dogs can be taken from Animal Control and placed into the jail dog program.
As the program grows, volunteerism with the organization is encouraged. “We really want to make this a model program, and we need help in everything from fundraising, marketing to helping with canine transport and the adoption program,” said Jacobs-Meadows.
“The dogs are the instrument to change these men,” she added. “We’re putting in place a program that will allow these men to be better - better parents to their children, better children to their parents, and better citizens in their community.”
In other news: Allgood Pest Solutions is partnering with Habitat for Humanity-North Central Georgia and will supply over $5,000 worth of termite control to 15 new homes over the next year. Allgood will provide the homes with a free termite pre-treatment, installing Sentricon stations around the perimeter of each home. Allgood plans to offer this solution to 15 Habitat-NCG families per year over the next ﬁve years.
To volunteer with Canine CellMates, go to www.caninecellmates.org.