A new program is giving inmates a chance at a better life after prison. It's also giving man's best friend a home.
Inmates have been training pups from a local animal kill shelter for the past 8 weeks. It's part of Northwest Florida Reception Center's new dog obedience program called F.E.A.T.S, which stands for force-free education and training solutions.
It's a program Warden William Churchwell says provides a positive experience for the inmates.
"The environment in a regular dormitory setting, its negative," says Churchwell. "Not that they beat each other up all the time, its just a negative environment because you have a whole dorm with known convicted felons."
Friday, the handful of inmates and four canines graduated. The inmates received certificates before handing the pups over to their new owners.
"It's teaching them responsibility, it's teaching them character building, and it translates into everyday life," says Bethany Jordan, a local dog trainer who volunteered her time teaching the inmates how to train these canines. She says "by understanding the behavior of the dogs, they can understand the behavior of other people around them."
While inmates are learning skills to prepare them for when they're on the other side of a prison cell, their new best friend has a better chance of finding a home.
One inmate, Robert Feiss says his particular dog that he helped train was "completely shut down, wouldn't move around or do anything," when he first met her. But now, Feiss says the dog named Cami, is different. He says Cami isn't the only who has transformed. "You don't have that in prison very often when you have a purpose to wake up in the morning," says Feiss.
Friday's graduation ceremony wrapped up this first training session but another isn't too far off. Warden Churchwell says they plan to get another set of four-legged friends next week and begin the training session all over again.
Friday, 3 out of the 4 dogs were adopted. Cami, who is pictured to the right, is still in need of a home.