With the motto of “pets helping woman inmates shed their shaggy past,” Pets Helping People’s Muddy Paws program in Tulsa has so far trained 84 incarcerated females from the Turley Correctional Center, Drug Court and Women in Recovery to be pet groomers and kennel technicians. Since then, none of them were subsequently arrested for crime.
Oklahoma leads the country in female incarceration, with nearly double the national average. The 2012 fiscal year annual report for the state’s Department of Corrections shows Oklahoma at a rate of 121 female inmates per 100,000 women, versus the US average of 65.
Each class rotation runs 40 hours each week for four months, at a cost of $7,000 per inmate student, but training is provided at no charge to the trainees. Pets Helping People (PHP) utilizes rescue and shelter dogs to teach grooming techniques, and this increases the chances for pets to be successfully adopted into a loving home.
Katheryn Pennington, a PHP board member and volunteer, said
The state needs to deal with the reintegration of these women into society, and PHP is helping to address this crisis. Muddy Paws graduates are employed in local businesses, pay taxes and participate in society. By learning a trade, these women have the dignity of supporting themselves and their families, thereby preventing repeat behavior. Investing in these graduates is an investment in the future.
The program, which allows another chance for many Oklahoma women who are willing to work for it, is expanding. Proceeds from a recent fundraising event will go toward a new grooming and training room at Muddy Paws.
Program graduate Brandi Navarro was in and out of trouble before she sold two Lortabs to an undercover cop. She landed in jail for three months before heading to Drug Court. After Muddy Paws training as a dog groomer and kennel technician, she was one of four ex-inmates who went to work full-time at a Tulsa shop called Shaggle Waggle.
When Navarro first came to Shaggy Waggle, she was shy and didn’t talk much, according to Dexter Stroud, who owns the grooming business with Dwynne Cook. Eventually, Navarro grew more relaxed as she became more proficient in her new skills.
I never would have thought I would be grooming dogs, but I’m really proud, and I feel really important to myself and others. I’m happy, clean and sober and feel like I have a purpose in my life now.
Perhaps your community would like to start an inmate training program in dog grooming or some other field. Everybody benefits, the women, the community and the shelter dogs.