When you are in prison, every day, you think that you are never getting out.
I am Jessica Inholt, and I am 31 years old. I am a former female ICAN handler at the Indiana Women’s Prison.
I was incarcerated because of my serious addiction to using heroin. Every day was wake up, find money to run around, and get high every day. I was actually nine months pregnant when I was incarcerated with my only child who just turned five.
When I first got to prison, I didn’t know anything. It was my first time getting into trouble, and I was sober for the first time in probably over ten years. So everything was new on top of being pregnant. After the birth of my son, I was thrown into the segregation area, the lockdown facility, due to a medical issue, so the whole experience was very traumatizing. It’s something you never want to do again.
When I first got there, I got into a therapeutic community called the Plus Program. After I kind of got some life skills together, I was always passionate about dogs. The thing that sticks out to me the most about the ICAN program and being excited to get involved in it was when I first got to prison, they sit you in this room with all of the other newbies, and they bring in everybody who does every kind of job in prison. I remember a handler being there with a dog, and I was pregnant and emotional and saw this dog and I felt like everything would be ok. This dog then came up to me and started loving on me, and I knew then that being a handler was what I wanted to do.
The first dog I trained was Lunar. Lunar was a black lab and people mistook him many times for not being a lab because he was so big-headed. He got the name Eyore because he was very slow and sluggish. He is still the love of my life. I had Lunar for almost a year, and he was my first dog to graduate. The client Lunar was being placed with had many health issues – he loses energy very easily, he gets tired very quickly. Lunar was placed with Fred because of that very reason. Lunar would get him motivated and encourage him to do better. He would get Fred excited about working with him daily with his cues, and having that experience to watch Lunar and Fred interact and work together in team training was so emotional. The conversations I had with Fred on how Lunar would help him just made me feel that everything I had worked so hard for was for this reason…so that Fred could have a better life.
So if there was anything I could say for reasons as to why it’s important everyone should support ICAN, I could talk forever about why. But I would say because it’s life-changing. It’s literally life-changing for anyone involved. It changes the client’s life, it changed my life and it changes anyone’s life who comes in contact with the program in every sense. It’s life-changing.