WHYY – ‘New Leash on Life’ teaches inmates life skills, gives dogs second chance

September 9, 2014

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By Holly Otterbein

It’s not every day that Philadelphia’s district attorney and public defenders agree on something.

But, on Monday, they joined together to celebrate a dozen city inmates graduating from an innovative prison rehabilitation program known as New Leash on Life USA.

The program takes dogs thought to be unadoptable and set to be euthanized from the city’s public shelter, then places them in the care of Philadelphia Prison System inmates who are taught to train the animals.

District Attorney Seth Williams said the 12-week program teaches prisoners life skills that make them more likely to succeed after being released.

“The role of the DA isn’t just about locking folks up and excellence in prosecution. Really, it’s about preventing crime and reducing recidivism, the rate of people who get arrested over and over and over again,” said Williams. “This program has the lowest rate of recidivism of all the programs that we have here in Philadelphia.”

Monday’s event marked New Leash on Life USA’s 10th graduation ceremony, with more than 100 prisoners and 60 dogs finishing the program since 2011.

“There are many different programs like these in these jails, but New Leash on Life is in a league of its own,” said graduate Sean Murphy. “No other program is as serious about the rehabilitation of its participants both human and canine. No one involved that’s running this program will ever let its participants consider failure to be an option, and with that determination, they pulled out the best in all of us.”

All of the dogs in this summer’s class have passed a behavioral test and are set to be adopted by outside families.

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