Canines and criminals team up in Michigan prisons

Published: Mar. 7, 2019 at 2:36 PM EST
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News 10's David Andrews recently traveled an hour north of Lansing to the Carson City Correctional Facility, where a unique program is taking place behind the barbed wire and metal bars.

A gymnasium full of 16 dogs, black Labs, yellow Labs, Golden Retrievers, are being put through their paces by prisoners.

The inmates are working for the nonprofit group PAWS With a Cause, which provides service dogs to people with limited mobility, those who are hard of hearing, even children with autism.

The routine and regiment of prison life seems to be perfect for training dogs for a life of service.

And for prisoners, it provides a purpose.

Now in his 30th year of a life sentence for murder, Ali is one of the model prisoners picked to live with a dog 24/7 and train them with a fellow inmate for four months, before getting another one.

"When we get updates from the PAWS With a Cause program and they show us what our dog is doing, a lot of time you say, 'That's my dog, that's my girl doin' that,'" Ali said.

He says the PAWS program not only helps him give back to society but has changed his whole attitude about what "doing time" is all about.

Right now the PAWS program is in five Michigan prisons and, at any given time, there are 70 dogs being trained for service work.