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Pups in Prison program significantly improves prisoner wellbeing, research finds

Published: 9 Nov 2020

An independent social impact assessment conducted by research firm Huber Social found prisoners who participated in Serco’s Pups in Prison program have had a 94 per cent increase in wellbeing, with up to seven pups now being trained by female prisoners at Southern Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC) in the Lockyer Valley.

In a unique partnership with community group, Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA), prisoners are equipped with the skills to train puppies that will support community members living with physical disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism, and more recently helping victims and witnesses get through stressful court proceedings.

Huber Social CEO and Founder, Georgina Camp, said the research conducted earlier this year was designed to begin to understand both the short and long-term impact of the program – not only on prisoners, but the prison environment as a whole and the eventual recipients of the dogs.

”We found that SQCC’s puppy trainers, the prisoners, experienced a range of positive outcomes as a result of the program, including a 32 per cent improvement in confidence and self-esteem, and a 25 per cent improvement in mental wellness,” Ms Camp said.

“The research also shows that recipients of the dogs trained at SQCC experienced a 148 per cent improvement in relationship skills and a 224 percent improvement in mental health.”

Recognising the powerful benefits of prisoner-animal programs, Serco expanded the Pups in Prison program in 2018 when the facility transitioned to a female centre, increasing the capacity of the program to raise and train pups from as early as two months old.

SQCC Prison Director Nick Rowe said ADA and Serco have been training assistance dogs through the program for more than 10 years now.

“The program provides the prisoners with new skills, training and responsibilities, which support their rehabilitation and improves their chance of success when released back into the community,” Mr Rowe said.

“The improvements across areas such as overall wellbeing, life skills, resilience, connection and relationships that were evident from the research are all important factors when it comes to reducing reoffending. Given the vulnerability of women in prison, findings like these are significant.”

ADA Chief Executive Officer Richard Lord said the program at SQCC had seen more than 40 pups trained and then placed with people in the community who need their vital support.

"The Pups in Prison program is a win-win. Not only does it significantly improve the wellbeing of prisoners in the program and members of the community who receive the trained assistance dogs, but the program also gives participants the capability and opportunity to live a life of value,” Mr Lord said.

The Pups in Prison program is one of many rehabilitative and community-focused initiatives across Serco facilities that provide opportunities for prisoners to give back to the community and fulfil their potential, both in prison and once released. A link to the complete report can be found here.


Media contact: Giselle Sale, +61 428 306 608
General media enquiries: Serco media line +61 (0) 2 9409 8700 or [email protected]

About Serco
Serco Asia Pacific (ASPAC) has been operating for more than 30 years across Australia with a proven track record in delivering the most demanding, complex and sensitive solutions for government clients. Employing around 11,000 people in the ASPAC region, we apply world’s best practice, insights and technology across six key sectors: Justice; Health; Citizen Services; Immigration; Defence and Transport.

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About Assistance Dogs Australia
Assistance Dogs Australia train and place unique dogs with Australians in unique situations. Our free-to-client assistance dogs provide independence, self-esteem, improved health and relationships to individuals and families — resulting in stronger and more successful communities. Learn more about us Your support makes a difference.