Inmates train service dogs in the new Leash on Life program at California Institution for Men.

Inmates train service dogs in the new Leash on Life program at California Institution for Men.

By Lt. Daniel Tristan, AA/Public Information Officer
California Institution for Men

The California Institution for Men (CIM), in partnership with the non-profit Canine Support Team,  has recently implemented the “Leash on Life” program.

An inmate at CIM trains a dog to become a service animal for someone in the community.

An inmate at CIM trains a dog to become a service animal for someone in the community.

Part of the Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group (ILTAG), the program teaches inmates to train potential service dogs for future placement into homes of disabled clients. The goal is to provide those in the community who have disabilities with companionship, independence, enhanced mobility and a greater quality of life.

The potential services dogs are initially placed in the homes of volunteers until they are 18 months old. During this time the dogs are cared for, socialized and taught basic obedience. The dogs are then placed in the “Leash on Life” program and are paired with inmate trainers.

The service dogs are taught skills to assist disabled clients with tasks such as pulling manual wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to summon help during emergencies and much more.

Inmates participating in the “Leash on Life” program were selected through an application and interview process.  In addition to designated Primary Dog Handlers, Secondary Dog Handlers and Dog Sitters were designated and will be trained to become Primary Dog Handlers as the program develops.

Inmates participating in the “Leash on Life” program are taught dog training techniques by volunteers.  Each service dog is trained for approximately six months after which they are assessed for placement as a service dog.

The “Leash on Life” program at CIM currently is currently training three dogs and will introduce additional dogs as the program develops.  This ILTAG program provides a valuable service.

“It is a means for inmates to learn new skills and give back to our community.” said Warden Tim Perez.

CIM opened in San Bernardino County in 1941.  The institution consists of four separate facilities and houses approximately 3,800 male inmates.