Author: Catherine Jarboe
Caswell Correctional Center, in conjunction with its non-profit community partner, Eyes Ears Nose and Paws (EENP) located in Hillsborough, NC, has forged a transformative partnership that empowers offenders to train service animals tailored for individuals with medical diagnoses or physical disabilities. This heartwarming initiative, known as the “At Both Ends of the Leash (ABEL) program,” was established in February 2018 and has since been a beacon of hope and transformation. This week, Caswell Correctional celebrated its “End of the Leash Ceremony” at the facility.
At Caswell Correctional, the ABEL program serves a dual purpose. The program offers incarcerated individuals the unique opportunity to engage in meaningful community service work and equips them with a valuable and marketable skills that can be helpful upon their eventual release. Offenders are paired with their assigned dogs and start on their 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week training journey. This intensive interaction has been shown to foster self-esteem, cultivate positive behaviors, and build a sense of personal responsibility in offenders.
EENP places the fully trained service dogs with individuals who rely on these extraordinary companions for crucial support. These service animals become much more than just pets; they serve as lifelines for ADA clients, providing an invaluable sense of comfort and security. Whether it's alerting a diabetic individual to blood sugar irregularities, assisting someone in getting up after a fall, or helping provide a sense of calm during a seizure, these remarkable working animals are trained to make a powerful difference for individuals with special care needs.
“This ongoing collaboration not only transforms the lives of offenders, but extends its reach to the broader community, touching the hearts and improving the quality of life for individuals with special healthcare needs or physical disabilities,” said NCDAC Chief Deputy Secretary Maggie Brewer.
This week, Caswell proudly celebrated its 15th training period under the ABEL program. Each training period spans a comprehensive 16 to 19 weeks, highlighting the commitment of both offenders and EENP to the program's success. In the words of one offender participating in ABEL, "This program has helped me so much. Through the love and care I've given to my assigned dog, I've had the opportunity to be part of something that makes a real difference in people's lives."