* Note – This article was written by Denton Thomason and first appeared in the Vinita Daily Journal *

A life­changing program that partners state inmates with shelter dogs is coming to Vinita.

Officials representing the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center and the Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter signed a memorandum of understanding, green­lighting a new program at the minimum security prison to partner shelter dogs with inmates.

Inmates would be partnered with dogs to train them in basic obedience skills so that they can be successfully adopted.

PAAS Executive Director Kay Stout spearheaded the initiative based on her experiences with a similar program at the state prison in Lexington.

“I think that the possibilities are amazing. The shelter dogs will profit from it, but the inmates do as well and it’s a win-­win for all of us. It really is a life ­changing program and you have to see it to understand it,” Stout said.

NOCC Warden Rodney Redman agrees.

“Everybody is very excited about the program. The inmates have already heard the rumors and are very excited, and the therapy staff is very excited. It’s definitely a win-­win where the inmates will benefit as much as the animals. Anything we can do to benefit our guys is a good deal for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

It won’t take long for the program to get up and running.

PAAS staff will attend Department of Corrections orientation classes in March or April, with the NOCC program getting off the ground shortly thereafter.

The plan is to start small with several dogs, and then to build it from there.

Redman explained that the dogs would live with inmates housed in one of the cell blocks, and would use an adjacent outdoor area for training.

“The dogs will stay with inmates and also room together for training. They’ll be socialized and taught basic obedience training. This will be their job and they’ll be spending the whole day with the dog,” Redman said.

The program is being funded solely by PAAS due to the current state budget crisis.

PAAS and NOCC Agreement

Photo by Denton Thomason – Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center Warden Rodney Redman and Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter Executive Director Kay Stout signed a memorandum of understanding, paving the way to begin a new inmate training program for shelter dogs. The program will allow for shelter dogs to live with NOCC inmates, who will train them in basic obedience so that they can be successfully adopted.

PAAS tour of Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center

Photo by Denton Thomason – Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center Warden Rodney Redman (second from right) leads a tour with the staff of the Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter Thursday at the NOCC courtyard. The NOCC is partnering with PAAS to start a new program where inmates will train dogs from the Vinita shelter to prepare them for adoption.

PAAS touring NOCC

Photo by Denton Thomason – Officials from the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center gave a tour of the minimum security prison to the staff of Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter Thursday. The NOCC is partnering with PAAS to begin a program where inmates train shelter dogs in basic obedience so that they can be successfully adopted.