Fulton County

Beyond the bars: New program uses shelter dogs to help break cycle of incarceration

FULTON COUNTY, Ga — A new program is using shelter dogs to help break the cycle of incarceration and rehabilitate local convicts.

Six men graduated from the program on Thursday.

Channel 2′s Kristen Holloway spoke with participants who shared how the program is making a difference in their lives.

“It’s a good feeling — a lot of weight off my shoulders now, I can get my life back, and I’m glad to put this behind me,” Raynell Keith, a graduate of the program, said.

Raynell Keith is one of six graduates in the “Canine Cellmates Beyond the Bars” program.

“Dogs are good stress relievers. I had fun training, learning,” Keith said.,

The new program in Fulton County uses shelter dogs to break the cycle of incarceration.

In this program, inmates learn how to care for dogs to get them ready for adoption, conflict resolution, parenting skills and financial literacy. Once the inmates complete the program, they have a final hearing, and their charges are dropped.

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“If people do not have opportunities there gonna go back to a life of crime and some we take a risk on some men, that some in society say no and throw them away, but an in-depth interview process is done, and they get to become part of this program,” Fanni Willis, Fulton County district attorney said.

The program is year-long. Canine Cellmates Executive Director Susan Jacobs came up with the idea.

“We are back in the jail as well, so we’re running a program in two places, which is a lot, and the way this program is structured, we start a new class every quarter, so it’s a lot of juggling; a lot of moving parts,” Jacobs said.

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Keith says he’s grateful for a fresh start.

“It’s a good program I recommend for anyone that’s trying to change their lives,” Keith said.

On Thursday, six men graduated from Canine Cellmates.

The program will have 12 men in the next class, which starts on Monday.

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