The ongoing challenges of rehabilitating and motivating youth offenders seemed like the perfect opportunity to “think outside the box” and embrace a unique training program. Since its inception, this program has been highly successful because of the strong support from the leadership team at OC Probation and the dedicated efforts of the staff members working in the designated housing units. Their commitment and support of The PAW Program made it possible for a PBS production company to obtain county and legal permission to film a documentary titled “Shelter Me – Second Chances.”
The participants in this program are male youth offenders between the ages of 16 to 18 years-old who are incarcerated for a variety of crimes. Their participation in this program is based on their commitment for self-improvement and the desire to learn a new set of life skills while making a difference in the lives of loving shelter dogs.
As part of training program, the wards visit the Orange County Animal Care Center (county shelter) before the selected dogs are brought into their housing unit for training. The youth are always shocked to see hundreds of wonderful and loving dogs that have lost their homes for one reason or another. The empathy the youth experience during that "field trip" helps to empower them to take their training responsibility seriously, as they want to ensure that the dog they train goes to a loving home, and not back to the shelter because of bad manners.
The benefits of this program are far-reaching, based on the impact the dogs have had on the youth participants and members of the community who have lovingly adopted dogs from this program!
Since providing these programs for youth correctional facilities, where the recidivism rate for male offenders is ~ 55%, the rate for those who participated in our program ranges between 28-30%!!! That's definitely a metric we're proud of!