Although society must hold offenders responsible for their behavior, we also need to provide them opportunities to learn skills that can help them grow into productive and responsible citizens. Effective programming, like ICAN, that provides job training and employment skills reduces the likelihood of recidivism while helping to transition the offender back into our community.
1. After release, ICAN's inmate handlers are less likely to re-offend.
2. They are more likely to secure employment.
3. ICAN's training model allows them to gain professional and life skills.
4. Presence of dogs in training reduces stress throughout the prison dormitory.
5. Prepares offenders to successfully reintegrate with their family.
ICAN's training model focuses and rewards what the dogs do right and ignores or redirects the undesired behaviors. This presents a radical shift in the way most of us have been taught to think. For some of the handlers this change of perspective is an "ah-ha moment", showing how our focus, perception and reaction will influence the outcome.
Working with a dog and learning about his behavior helps the handlers develop understanding and empathy for another living being. Dogs, like humans, are unique. They are motivated by different things, they have different levels of frustration and confidence, different ways of handling conflict (submissive vs. dominant) and different learning styles. By working with the dogs, the handlers learn how to accept and respect differences rather than seeing differences as "wrong" or "inferior".
As handlers progress with their training skills, they also develop skills that help them modulate their own stress levels, develop consistent expectations and clarity of communication. Dogs, just like humans, learn better when they are understood and have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
ICAN focuses as much effort on training serviced dogs as we do educating inmates. Throughout all training is a strong theme – What are the parallels between interacting with dogs and interacting with our peers and families? We encourage ICAN inmate handlers to apply the same principles of developing a respectful and trusting relationship with their dog to interacting with their children and family members.
ICAN inmate handlers report that they have more positive and sustained interactions on visits with their children. For example: They are able to have their dog in training with them for family visits. The dog acts as a bridge for the inmate and their children to connect and to feel part of each other's world. Inmates are able to show their children what the dogs know and then "coach" their children in how to work with the dog. This creates a wonderful shared experience that transcends prison walls.
Join us to hear the ICAN story and to meet our dogs in training and their handlers at the Indiana Women's Prison in Indianapolis. Please call 317-672-3860 to register two weeks prior to the tour date. For tour dates, please visit If These Dogs Could Talk.
"Training Gracie has taught me to stay positive and provide encouragement to my children and reward the behaviors I want and ignore the ones I don't. My children (Kadin who is 8 and Tomas who is 13) are more likely to want to do good if they are rewarded for good behaviors. When they are getting attention for their bad behaviors they are likely to do it again. So I try to avoid pointing out all they've done wrong. I listen and pay attention more to what they say, instead of talking so much. I allow them to make decisions and if they are not the right ones I guide them in the right direction. ICAN has helped mold me into a patient, responsible, loving and encouraging mother."
Click here to read more ICAN handler success stories!
Photos by Liz Kaye Photography