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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
SW: Feature Report Channel
Reported May 11, 2009

Sending Dogs to Prison

INDIANAPOLIS (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It's a program that helps both patients who need assistance dogs and those who train them. The Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) touches lives inside and outside prison walls.

Wherever Emily Shryock goes, Jammer is by her side. Lyme disease has left her unable to walk and simple things don't come easy.

"It's amazing when you see how simple it was for them, whereas it would have probably taken you five minutes to do the same thing," Shryock told Ivanhoe.

Jammer is an assistance dog from the non-profit program ICAN. The dogs are trained here at the Indiana women's prison and two other prisons in the state.

"If we can send them out with more responsibility, more discipline, more job skills, then we've fulfilled our purpose," Sherri DeCoursey, associate director of ICAN, explained.

Inmates like Krissy Bunch are with the dogs 24/7.

"The biggest thing about this program is you are given an opportunity to give back and make a difference in somebody else's life," Bunch said.

She is serving time for arson. Bunch trains the dogs to do everyday tasks, but she says she gets so much more in return.

"It's very lonely here, so with the dog it eases a lot of that because I can go back and sit on the floor and hug on my dog and tell my dog that I'm having a bad day or I'm having a rough time or I'm lonely, and they definitely ease the stay," she explained.

That companionship helps patients through tough times too.

"Even if you're feeling like it's not so great of a day just to see their wagging tails and they're so excited," Shryock said.

They're changing lives on both sides of the fence.

The assistance dogs are trained to help patients with conditions like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, paralysis, and autism. There is a one-time fee of $950 for patients to get a dog through ICAN.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Sherri DeCoursey,

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