PHOENIX - Some inmates at the Saguaro Correctional Center are teaching retired greyhounds how to be pets, so they can find their forever homes. At the same time, the program seems to be rescuing some inmates as well.
"I asked about the program, and they say it's a racing greyhound -- rehabilitating dogs," said inmate Marwan Jackson. "So, I got interested in there and I'm like, this is something I want to do. I got a big chunk of time to do so, I might as well do something positive with it."
At the correctional center, a handful of inmates care for retired greyhounds after their racing careers cross the finish line. The goal now is to get them ready for adoption. Until then, they eat, sleep, play and train together. All day, every day.
"It's not on our time. It has nothing to do with us or our personality. It's all about the dog. He wants to do it whenever he's ready," said inmate Matthew Boankswade.
Most of the dogs only know lives of racing and living in kennels. They don't know how to interact with other dogs, much less human beings. The inmates are taught how to teach old dogs new tricks, from simple commands like "sit" and "stay", to how to walk up and downstairs. Mostly, the dogs are learning how to live with people.
The inmates, meanwhile, learn a lot too.
"We're helping each other out, you know. If I need to learn patience. he's teaching me patience. [If] he needs to learn obedience, I teach him obedience, so when he goes out, he has his forever home," said Jackson.
The program saves the lives of otherwise unwanted dogs, and breathes new life into men who came to the facility for crimes like manslaughter and murder. Warden Todd Thomas calls it a win/win.
"Caring for something other than themselves, having to plan and get through 5 o'clock today, and gives a sense of belonging, in my opinion," said Warden Thomas.
After about seven weeks, each dog should be ready to move on. An old one is quickly replaced by a new one, so that the process repeats.
"The difference between their race life and here is like for us going to a halfway house and slowly transitioning to real freedom, And to them and us, real freedom would be an adoptive home," said Boankswade.
The group Racing Home Greyhound Adoption is based in Arizona, and Warden Thomas said he has a waitlist full of inmates who hope to train greyhounds in the future.