A fundamental tenet of the Danish Prison System is the principle of normalization, meaning that prisons are organized in such a way that the conditions within the walls more or less resemble the conditions outside them. When prison conditions differ as little as possible from normal daily life on the outside, it underpins rehabilitation efforts. To have contact with animals during incarceration can be seen as a part of normalization and thus contributing to rehabilitation. However, in Danish prisons, animal-based programs are not usually offered, nor are prisoners allowed to keep a pet. In an open prison, a women’s prison workshop was established in 2014. In response to prisoners’ requests for contact with animals, an employee brought her own dog during the hours of the workshop, from Monday to Friday. In Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries, not much attention has been given to the effect of the human–animal bond within prisons. To document how well it might work, qualitative methods for data collection were used, including interviews with incarcerated women (n = 12) and staff (n = 3) and participant observation (67 hours) within the women’s workshop. The dog contributed to normalize the prison setting, and participants revealed that the dog improved social relations between inmates and between staff and inmates. Finally, the dog provided comfort to the incarcerated women when they had to deal with difficult personal feelings. A recommendation for policy makers and prison officials arising from this study is that animals should be a normal part of the prison setting.
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