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Program Using Inmates To Train Service Dogs For Veterans

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McALESTER, Oklahoma -

Prisoners at the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center are training service dogs to donate to Oklahoma veterans in need.

Grettle and Sarah are two of three service dogs who are fully certified and ready to be paired with a veteran. Prisoners are training rescue dogs like Sarah 24/7 for veterans in need.

"It's helped me a lot since I have been diagnosed with PTSD. When I have nightmares, she wakes me up, when I disassociate she comes and nudges me. She knows everything that I am feeling," said JBCC Prisoner Robert Thornton.

The program called Paws for Patriots started about a year ago and is the only program like it in the state. Any prisoner can be involved but Robert Thornton and Adam Myers are also veterans themselves. They are both involved in the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center Veteran's Group, the group serves veterans in need all over the state of Oklahoma and partnered with Paws For Patriots for this project.

Thornton is serving time for assault and battery with intent to kill. He says just because he's incarcerated, doesn't mean he can't still serve.

"We are veterans of the armed forces of the United States of America that is something no one can take away from you," said Thornton.

Myers says this is more than a job for them, he says this program gives prisoners skills they can use when they get out and helps them heal from past mistakes,” said Myers. "I feel that I have taken a lot from everybody so it's good for us to be able to give back."

Four dogs are graduating today as fully certified service dogs. Pepper, is the first to find a new home with retired US Army veteran Frank Martinez.

"A companion, she is going to help me with my stability. It means a lot," said Martinez.

Giving rescue dogs and prisoners a second chance, while helping veterans all over the state of Oklahoma.

"This journey has been like a forest knocking down the trees and making a path," said Paws for Patriots Instructor Tami Chaky.

In a statement, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said the program is inspirational and helps to improve the lives of inmates.

"Our partnership with Partners for the Animals Welfare Society and the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter is a truly inspirational one for our inmates. They get to train special, faithful companions for the men and women who've sacrificed so much for their country. They also gain something of value, a skill the can offer society when they get out. Additionally, programs like this help improve security on the yard giving inmates something positive to do with their time in prison."

JBCC says they hope this program continues to grow in the years to come. Paws for Patriots receives help from organizations all over the community including Operation Hope, The Coffee Bunker, Pittsburg County Animal Shelter, JBCC Prison Ministry,  and PAWS.

To Donate you can Mail Checks to PAWS P.O Box 76 McAlester, OK 74502 (In memo line "Paws For Patriots)

or call JBCC and ask for Deputy Warden Kathy Mordecai.

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