by Sean Diamond, Director of Training, ICAN
As society has had to adapt to these unpredictable times during the pandemic, ICAN has obviously had to do so ourselves. Rest assured we are conducting business such as training of dogs and volunteers, assessment of dogs, breeding, placing dogs, and interaction with the inmate handlers, the correctional facilities, and the public with the utmost care and caution.
The dogs have stayed inside the two male correctional facilities throughout and remained in the Indiana Women’s Prison until the middle of May when we made the decision to pull them out and place them with volunteers. The set-up at the women’s prison is not as conducive to social distancing as the men’s facilities are, and thus, required more restrictive movement for the inmates in the facility and thus the dogs. Due to this, with the welfare of the dogs in mind, we had to make the decision to move the dogs out of the facility, for the time being.
I have continued to remain in contact with each facility and the handlers at all three facilities receive weekly assignments. All the dogs are doing well and the handlers are as well. Obviously, the women are anxious to get the dogs back but they do understand that the priority is the health and safety of everyone in the institution. As mentioned, they are still receiving weekly assignments, various articles to read, surveys and feedback questions, videos, among other things to keep them engaged.
As for the men’s facilities in Pendleton (PCF & CIF), I am limiting the movement of dogs in/out of facilities to absolute needs at this time. The handlers are diligently continuing their training and providing assessment and training reports on a regular basis. I am doing virtual classes with them at this time. The dogs, as most of you know, are very therapeutic for the inmates in the facilities and this helps greatly during these stressful times. When a dog does enter the facility from a vet appointment or needed assessment, the handlers at all facilities have been instructed to immediately wash their equipment and replace temporarily with extra equipment that has been provided for their supply closets. They are able to wash their dogs also if they so choose.
If an inmate handler were to get sick, or someone in his dorm/room gets sick, the dog is immediately moved to a handler in another dorm/room and the equipment washed and dog bathed prior to entering the other dorm/room.
Our education of our volunteers, including the new class of volunteers that was suspended due to COVID-19 this past spring, has restarted. We conducted remote training classes fro the new volunteers weekly through Zoom, monthly refresher training classes on Zoom, and in the middle of June have begun in-person classes conducted outside in small groups with social distancing guidelines being followed.
As we move towards our fall/winter Team Training, Sandi Clark, our Director of Client Services and I are preparing to begin advanced training this month for the dogs that are potential graduates for the upcoming class.
ICAN is doing well and continuing to adapt to this ever-changing time. We have plans, and alternate plans, in place for several different situations that may occur. Our handlers in the facilities continue to be engaged, educated, and we are doing our best to keep them in as positive a frame of mind as possible.