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Inmates give back to the community through service dog training program

Dogs trained as service dogs can cost anywhere from $25,000- $40,000 but they are given to those in need completely free. (WRSP)

Around 6.5 million animals entered shelters in the U.S every year. Of those shelter animals, around 1.5 million are euthanized, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Now, the Logan Correctional Center is working to reduce those numbers by allowing inmates to rehabilitate abandoned dogs.

“It's freedom within prison it really is," said Regina DeFrancisco, an inmate at Logan Correctional Center.

Freedom in prison is a term you may not hear very often.

For Regina DeFrancisco, that freedom means learning a skill that will help her when she's released through the helping paws program.

"I could easily train someone's dog from here,” said Regina DeFrancisco, an inmate at Logan Correctional Center.

Right now, 35 dogs live at the correctional center.

Inmates who demonstrate good behavior can join the program where they have a daily responsibility to train abandoned dogs and turn them into service animals.

"It just means everything, it's hard for me to explain how much it means to me,” said Jessica Lighthart, an inmate at Logan Correctional Center.

Jessica Lighthart has been a part of the program for around ten years.

“I train them to the best of my ability to help others," said Lighthart.

The dogs learn skills to help people who are immobile.

They're also taught to spot a medical disorder and are able to literally fetch medication.

The money for the program comes from the Illinois Correctional Institute.

"They leave here as someone who is ready to be a positive member of society," said Melissa Mooney, the coordinator for the Helping Paws Program at Logan Correctional Center

The dogs stay in the program for 14-18 weeks.

From there, the correctional center works to pair the new service dog with a community member in need.

Dogs trained as service dogs can cost anywhere from $25,000- $40,000 but they are given to those in need completely free.

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