A second chance at life: program benefits prisoners and pups

Inmates at the Rockville Correctional Facility train shelter dogs. News 10 goes behind bars to show how the program is giving the dogs, and inmates, a second chance at life.

Posted: Feb. 15, 2018 8:38 AM

ROCKVILLE, Ind. (WTHI) - Behind the bars at Rockville Correctional Facility, is a story.

It’s been a tough past for Lolita Ramirez. Drugs landed her behind these walls, but the walls inside hurt worse.

"I was a very angry person, I couldn't communicate. I couldn't communicate,” said Ramirez. “I wouldn't be able to do this [interview], oh no.”

But luckily for Ramirez, a new friend is giving her a second chance. Meet Rosebud. She’s trapped too.

"Oh, this has totally changed me," said Ramirez. “I’ve done other programs that gave me skills like cooking, but that has done it, this has totally done it.”

It's called the A.D.O.P.T. program. Inmates train dogs who otherwise would be stuck at a shelter.

The women at the Rockville Correctional Facility transform into teachers, protectors and even cheerleaders.

They give round-the-clock care to dogs like Roy, Dodger and Kolton. All the dogs come from the Parke-Vermillion Humane Society.

Their past, is a lot like the inmates’.

"I feel like I’ve been abandoned all my life. A lot of these dogs we get, they've been abandoned,” said Talinqa Johnson. “They want to get love, I always want to get love."

Sherry Sassin created the A.D.O.P.T. program in 2012. She saw the need to give inmates practical skills to land a job after prison, while also benefitting the Parke-Vermillion animal shelter.

"I love to see the walls break down because it can be so hard. I mean we have murderers, drug dealers, bikers,” said Sassin. “We've got all kinds I’ve had in my program.”

The dogs learn basic obedience and skills to make them more attractive for future pet owners. After about three months of training at the prison, they are put up for adoption.

The inmates say it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to their four-legged friends, but they know they did their job when they find a new home.

Although friendships may come and go, what you never lose are the lessons along the way.

"I think that's what she's helped me do. Animals helped me where I don't have to go get high. I can just come and train an animal and do something right out of it,” said Ramirez.

Taking advantage of a second chance, as those walls start to come down.

Once the inmates graduate from the two year A.D.O.P.T program, they receive a certificate from the Department of Labor. This helps them land a job once released from prison.

Sassin say she has a 0% recidivism rate. This means not one inmate that's completed her program has ever been arrested after leaving prison.

If you are interested in adopting one of the dogs who benefit from the program, click here.

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