Jail program aims to heal inmates, give dogs new chance

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YAPHANK -

Some inmates at the Suffolk County correctional facility in Yaphank are training dogs that will one day be up for adoption.

The Handcuffs to Healing program couples inmates with strays for a six-week obedience and social training program. The hope is that the dogs, considered difficult to adopt, will experience human compassion and eventually find a forever home.

Program director Michael Gould says the goal is two-fold, as the six inmates participating in the program are learning valuable skills that may lead to employment in the field. All inmates involved are sentenced to county time and considered low-risk offenders.

"It's a spiritual journey and there is going to be a transformation in the hearts of the inmates and in the hearts of the dogs," Gould says.

Inmate Joe Dima, who will be home in time for Thanksgiving, says he's thankful for the opportunity to help his four-legged companion find a loving family.

"It feels great actually," Dima says. "I have a dog at home that I am missing."

The dogs, mostly pit bull mixes, are from the Town of Brookhaven Animal Shelter and were selected by Gould with the help of the shelter.

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