As a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Criminal Justice at UALR, Jacob Laan spends much time performing research in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC).
Lately, the Paws in Prison program is capturing his attention.
Laan works closely with Dr. Mary Parker, a faculty member in UALR’s Department of Criminal Justice and one of the driving forces behind the Paws in Prison program. The program rescues dogs at risk of being euthanized and places them with inmates who train them for adoption.
The program represents a second chance for the dogs and their inmate trainers, and for those who adopt the animals, often people with mental or physical challenges who are greatly aided by the dog’s presence.
“Dr. Parker’s passion for the program is admirable and contagious,” said Laan. “It wasn’t long after I started working with her that I began to see its value.”
Arkansas has one of the highest kill rates for shelter animals in the country. Since the progressive program’s inception in 2011, hundreds of rescue dogs have been trained and adopted by people eager to have them.
“In a field where much of what we do is aimed at enforcing the law and imposing sanctions on those who break it, it is refreshing to see a program that is focused on helping not only the inmates, but the community as well,” Laan said.
To raise awareness of the Paws in Prison program, the Criminal Justice Department in collaboration with the Criminal Justice Society and the Student Government Association hosted a special visit on April 22.
During the event, Laan delivered a brief presentation and the canines demonstrated their expertise. At the conclusion, several toy and treat donation boxes, filled by campus dog enthusiasts prior to the event, were given to the representative from the Paws in Prison program.