Darlene Chalmers

PAWSitive Support: The Development of a Prison-Based Canine Assisted Learning (CAL) Program

A Talk by Darlene Chalmers MSW PhD (Associate Professor, University of Regina Faculty of Social Work)

About this Talk

The literature on incarceration suggests that prisoners experience a poverty of connection—isolation from self and others—due to the structure of their environment and oftentimes due to mental health concerns, including the detrimental impacts of incarceration as well as addiction. The literature also supports the healthy impacts of human connection with animals in animal-assisted intervention (AAI) programs. Prison-based animal programs are becoming increasingly common in North America . The majority, however, are developed foremost for the benefits they provide to the animal and/or community. Inmate wellness is a secondary focus.

This presentation will share the development of PAWSitive Support, a canine-assisted learning program (CAL) offered in a federal Canadian penitentiary . The focus of this pilot program is to facilitate a process whereby the dog-inmate connection assists in movement toward attainment of the inmate’s correctional plan. Key to this connection is the notion of ‘care’ as perceived from the dog by the inmate, and as offered by the handlers in their role as researchers.

Discussion will include the One Health framework and a trauma-informed approach in guiding program development. The program goals, objectives and activities will be presented. The evaluation feedback gathered from the initial cohort of 10 participants and prison officials will be shared. The presentation will conclude with the need for ongoing research on outcomes of animal assisted interventions offered in prisons as well as the implications for social workers and the potential for veterinarians in AAIs.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will learn about the goals, objectives and activities of a prison-based canine assisted learning (CAL) program

  2. Participants will learn about the implementation of CAL in a prison setting

  3. Participants will learn about preliminary evaluation outcomes in this prison-based CAL program

  4. Participants will learn about implications for practice and policies for prison-based CAL programs

References: Allison, M. & Ramaswamy, M. (2016). Adapting animal-assisted therapy trials to prison-based animal programs. Public Health Nursing, 33(5), 472-480. doi: 10.1111/phn.12276 Binfet, T., Silas, H., Longfellow, S., & Widmaier-Waurechen, K. (2018). When veterinarians support canine therapy: Bidirectional benefits for clinics and therapy programs. Veterinary Sciences, 5(2), 1-8. doi:10.3390/vetsci5010002 Cochran, J. & Mears, D. (2013). Social isolation and inmate behavior: A conceptual framework for theorizing prison visitation and guiding and assessing research. Journal of Criminal Justice, 41(4), 252-261. Haney, C. (2012). Prison effects in the era of mass incarceration. The Prison Journal. 1-24. doi: 10.1177/0032885512448604 Hoy-Gerlach, J. & Wehman, S. (2017). Human-animal interactions: A social work guide. Washington, DC: NASW Press. Jalongo, M. (2019). Introduction: Building a rationale for prison dog programs. In M. Jalongo (Ed.), Prison dog programs: Renewal and rehabilitation in correctional facilities (pp. 1-16). Springer. Mazza, C. (2008). Within these walls: The effects of environment on social work practice in prisons. Practice: Social Work in Action, 20(4), 251-264.

October 09, 2020, 05:00 PM

05:00 PM - 05:30 PM

About The Speakers

Darlene Chalmers

Darlene Chalmers MSW PhD

Associate Professor, University of Regina Faculty of Social Work