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Unintended Rehabilitation: A Comparative Analysis of Prison Animal Programs

By Mielissa Beseres

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Prison Animal Programs (PAPs) are built on the foundation of the human-animal bond. Integrating animals into correctional settings through a therapeutic approach could potentially influence many individuals as prisons continue to increase their capacity. In this comparative analysis, the United States was divided into three regional sectors and quota sampling was used to select two prison-animal programs from each sector. Purposeful sampling was used to navigate characteristics of each program’s website information, including comprehensive mission and program description. Prison-animal programs are rarely used through a therapeutic lens, resulting in little to no collected or comparative data. However, information available indicates that working with an animal can teach patience, trust, communication, and may normalize life as many inmates may have had an animal before their sentencing. Available research was favorable regarding the respective programs, which is not surprising, as most of the information was generated by the prison-animal programs themselves. Although PAP have been demonstrated to provide significant benefits to prisons and prisoners, the researcher notes there are considerable road blocks to expansion of programming including: a lengthy application process, crimes that disqualify individuals, number of dogs available for programming, and private prison closures. For the social work profession, it would be helpful to gain more research knowledge on how to best assist in rehabilitating inmates while they are in a correctional setting. Results from this study indicate prison-animal programs are one tool for assisting prisoners to do well and thrive once out of prison.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Pages 48
Department School of Social Work
Degree Master of Social Work
University St. Catherine University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Mielissa Beseres (2018), "Unintended Rehabilitation: A Comparative Analysis of Prison Animal Programs,"

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  1. Animal roles
  2. Human-animal bond
  3. open access
  4. Prisoners
  5. Prisons
  6. Rehabilitation
  7. Social Work
  8. therapy
  1. open access