PICKENS — A new program is being implemented at the Pickens County Detention Center giving both inmates and some lucky pups a new “leash” on life.
Drew Sisco, director of the Detention Center and The Pickens County SPCA, said inmates who work at the shelter will begin fostering dogs at the prison.
“We’ve begun talks with some trainers to try to develop a program for inmates to take some of these animals back to the (prison) facility and rehabilitate,” said Sisco. “I’ve written the policy for it, but there’s some things I still need to liability wise.”
Sisco said he was hoping to get the program underway by the end of the month.
“It looks like we’re going to do six to eight weeks behavioral management and try to teach basic obedience and then adopt animals out,” he said.
The plan, Sisco said, was to start small — four or five animals — and build their way up but a “test case” is already underway with a German Shephard named Sam.
According to a worker at the shelter, Sam, who is a year old, was brought in as a stray and had been abused so badly he would “cringe at the wind.”
His handler, an inmate at the detention center, is slowly helping to bring him around.
According to the organization Paws4Prison, programs such as the one Sisco is piloting benefits not only the dogs but has been shown to have a positive impact on the inmates as well.
Reports show inmates who are involved with dog fostering and training are more disciplined in their daily lives, more compassionate, caring, loving, patient, and tolerant of others.
Additionally, inmates have been shown to increase their self motivation, become more team orientated and display leadership abilities by learning to be proactive instead of reactive.
Although the program is being utilized in states across the country, it would be the first of its kind here in Pickens County.
Sisco stated he hoped the program would increase adoption rates while at the same time being a positive experience for the inmates.
“We’re even looking into getting involved with a trainer that can provide certifications for the handlers,” he said. “That way, when they leave, they could even have a new line of work if they wanted.”
In addition to the prison dog program, officials at the shelter said they are also looking into making some changes aesthetically.
“Let’s be honest, you tell people the shelter is on Prison Camp Road, they’re immediately put off,” said Sisco. “And then when you get up there, it’s not clear what gates to go to … things like that. We’re looking into getting some signage or even something like painting some big paw prints on the road so we can just say ‘follow the paws.’”
Sisco said they were even considering asking County Council to change the name of the road to something a little more … friendly.
“Prison Camp Road really does sound bad,” he chuckled.
For more information on the Pickens County SPCA visit www.co.pickens.sc.us/AnimalControl.
Anna Ebert is a student at Edgewood Middle School in Ninety Six. She job shadowed managing editor Kasie Strickland as part of a school career day project.