FAQs

What is Pen Pals of San Quentin?
Why did MHS propose to do this program?
Where have some similar programs been implemented?
How do the inmates and community benefit from Pen Pals?
How do you choose the dogs for the program?
Who were the first dogs to go through the program?
How can you trust the inmates with the dogs?
How is this program being funded?

What is Pen Pals of San Quentin?
Pen Pals of San Quentin is a unique program jointly operated by The Marin Humane Society (MHS) and San Quentin State Prison in which selected inmates learn to socialize and train dogs to prepare them for placement with families in the community.


 

Why did MHS propose to do this program?
The Marin Humane Society is a community-based shelter and this program will enable more animals’ lives to be saved while, at the same time, making a difference for the community by providing a positive program for our resident prison. The Marin Humane Society rehabilitates dogs medically and behaviorally to make them better adoption candidates, and this often requires a lengthy stay in a foster situation. The dogs need someone’s time – and the inmates have it! So the dogs benefit by being with their handlers 24/7 and becoming better socialized and better trained so that they’ll fit in easily with their future adoptive families.

Because the MHS Behavior and Training Department is a large one, with 20 dog trainers and 60 dog training assistants, it is well equipped to handle the needs of such a program.

 

Where have some similar programs been implemented?
Companion Dog Program: Nevada State Prison
Puppies Behind Bars: Correctional Facilities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut
Tender Loving Care: Ohio Department of Corrections
Friends for Folks: Oklahoma Department of Corrections


 

How do the inmates and community benefit from Pen Pals?
From the experience of earlier programs, we know that participating inmates benefit from increased self esteem from learning new skills and seeing their dogs progress and be successfully adopted into new homes, and that they develop increased empathy by taking caring of their dogs’ needs around the clock. In some cases, the skills the inmates learn may even translate into helping them find work after leaving prison.

The prison benefits from the addition of a new incentive to keep inmates on good behavior. Participating in this program is a privilege requiring a perfect behavior record for the one-year period prior to being considered for the program. Plus, participating facilities generally experience a marked decrease in tension and violence with the introduction of the animals.

The community benefits because when the participating inmates leave prison, they leave with a better attitude and their risk of recidivism is lower.

 

How do you choose the dogs for the program?
The dogs are chosen by our behavior evaluators who are seeking adolescent dogs who need to learn manners, shy dogs who require more socialization, and dogs with health conditions, like heartworm, who need a place to convalesce for several weeks. No dogs with aggression issues will be considered for the program.

 

 

Who were the first dogs to go through the program?
Smokey, a 10-month-old Australian Shepherd/Bernese Mountain Dog mix who was shy and fearful.

Gabby, a 3-year-old Yellow Lab mix who was shy and lived outside all her life and was very nervous being indoors.

Sandy, an 11-month-old Brittany Spaniel mix who had heartworm and needed to be kept calm during six weeks of treatment.


 

How can you trust the inmates with the dogs?
Our trainers are in close contact with the inmates and the inmates log notes about the dogs' daily progress and behaviors which the trainers then monitor. Prison officials also closely watch the interactions between inmates and dogs.


 

How is this program being funded?
Program expenses — for all food, toys, crates, vaccines, vet care, beds, grooming supplies, some fencing — are being born by The Marin Humane Society from donations and grant funding. We’re anticipate annual cost to be approximately $5,000 — low costs for such high payoffs — and at no cost at all to taxpayers. If you are interested in funding opportunities for this program, please email or call 415.506.6257.

 

Marin Humane Society

171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd, Novato, CA 94949
Phone 415.883.4621

Copyright 2011