Serco has responded quickly to COVID-19 restrictions, ensuring prisoners can continue giving back to the community through the Pups in Prison program.
Run in partnership with Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA), this program trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers to support people with special needs, including those living with physical disabilities, autism, post-traumatic stress and dementia.
Southern Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC) Prison Director Nick Rowe said ADA and Serco have been training assistance dogs through the Pups in Prison program for over 10 years.
“Prisoners at SQCC train the pups to perform tasks that are difficult for those with special needs. The training takes approximately eight months and involves 24 hours a day, seven days a week care,” Nick said.
“The program also provides the prisoners with new skills, training and responsibilities, which support their rehabilitation and allows them to give back to the community.”
Following the announcement that all external visits would be suspended as part of the State Government’s COVID-19 infection controls, Serco’s team at SQCC have implemented a solution that enables prisoners to continue their training sessions with ADA.
“SQCC currently has five pups being trained by 10 prisoners. The challenge was to still facilitate the program and allow the pups to stay in the correctional facility while maintaining level three restrictions set by the Government,” Nick said.
“By utilising video conferencing technology, we were able to facilitate a virtual training session for our five primary puppy handlers and four ADA staff."
ADA’s Queensland Puppy Educator Supervisor Jacky Harper said, “during these extraordinary times with the spread of COVID-19 in the outside community, Assistance Dogs Australia are grateful for the support of Serco to help us continue the Pups In Prison program through the use of technology to share live online classes directly to the prison handlers.”
“We have managed to engage the handlers in a new style of learning so they can continue to progress their skills and maintain their commitment to training the puppies inside the prison grounds.”
Virtual training sessions for the Pups in Prison program will continue throughout COVID-19 restrictions and Serco look forward to applying the same technology to facilitate other programs.
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Image: Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) Trainers dial-in to continue providing training.