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Two New Programs At Kane County Jail Aim To Use Dogs To Help Improve Inmate Behavior

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A puppy pick-me-up in an unlikely place. At the Kane County Jail, the bet is canine kisses will help drop the number of fights behind bars.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory went behind the scenes of two new dog-based programs offered at the jail.

Inside cell block D, an unfamiliar noise: joy at jail.

"We don't smile, or laugh, or have a good time very much in here," said detainee Amber Moberly.

Every so often, Kane County's new therapy dog, KC, visits detainees; trained to love up on whoever is in the lockup.

"It brings us females together more, too; on a positive note, and not a negative note," said detainee Lisha Lewandowski.

Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain proudly touted plummeting violent rates at the jail through other programs.

"We dropped our inmate fights by 40%," he said. "We dropped our inmate attacks on officers by almost 95%."

Hain said he hopes the jail's therapy dog program will continue the trend, but said it will be a while before he can back that up with hard numbers.

"I like to use one year as a good standard," he said.

The sheriff's $6,000 experiment is not unheard of.

Parenting, Prison & Pups is a multi-year study of the effect of dogs on incarcerated women in New York by the Good Dog Foundation and Pace University's Dyson College.

Nationally, 70% of inmates are mothers of children under age 18.

The hypothesis is that parenting skills taught behind bars are better retained if animals come to class. New York-based researcher Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox told CBS 2 that preliminarily, depression is down and self-esteem is up.

"I look at animals like they're my kids, too," detainee Jasmine Gabler said.

Deputies at the Kane County Jail say Gabler, a mother of two, is on better behavior thanks to the program.

She recently started the jail's second new dog-based activity: obedience training. Right now, the $1,000 program is only offered to women at the jail.

"The vast majority of women in custody – and this goes for women in custody throughout the nation – have experienced some sort of trauma," Hain said.

Gabler said she used to feel like the failure in her family.

"Now I feel like I can get out and I can really do the things in life; like, I'm 27, and I want better things for my children. I don't want them to be taken away like how I was when I was a kid," she said.

Speaking of kids, 7 ½-month-old KC is fresh out of training  He's still practicing his skills, but the women at the jail don't mind.

"He's more loving, and you don't really get that in here," Moberly said.

Aurora Animal Control transports adoptable dogs to and from the Kane County Jail for obedience training classes. Both dog programs are funded through revenue from the jail commissary.

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