Inmates find purpose in training service dogs

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BISMARCK Inmates are teaching dogs new tricks.

Service animals are being trained at the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck, the Missouri River Correctional Center in New England, and the James River Correctional Center in Jamestown.

"Sadie" is learning how to serve....from behind bars. She's one of six dogs in training to become a service animal. Inmates at the State Pen put these pups through their paces.

"Every time the dog offers a behavior that is what we're looking for they get a click and a treat. Eventually the treats go away and they get the positive reinforcement," said Jenny Brodkorb, Service Dogs of America.

Jenny Brodkorb is the executive director of Service Dogs of America, located in Jud, North Dakota. She spends time with trainers every week, helping them prepare dogs to assist people with mobility issues, or clients who experience seizures or PTSD.

The animals are kenneled at the prison and inmates work with their service dog fifteen hours a day, six days a week.

The Inmate Canine Assistance Program provides benefits for service dogs, the people they eventually are placed with, and the prisoners themselves.

"It's life changing for me," said Levern Golus, inmate.

Levern Golus will be out on parole in November. He wants to get a dog when he's released and plans to use the training techniques he's learned on his new companion.

Jenny Brodkorb: "Don't forget to tell her good heel..."

Wade Duchaine says the ICAP program is helping him develop social interaction skills.

Wade Duchaine, prison inmate: It's not a job you can be anti-social in and I used to be anti-social so, I mean, it helps me with my communications and all of that.

Jenny Brodkorb: "Go ahead and lure her into a heel."

More than 100 service dogs have been trained in the North Dakota Corrections system since 2008.

Jenny Brodkorb, Services Dogs of America: This is the first time for some of these gentlemen that they are responsible for something or someone other than themselves.

Its their first opportunity to give back to a society that was previously taken from instead of given to.

Levern Golus: "Down"

The trainers are fully accountable for their service dogs. Meaning they're responsible for the animals' health, nutrition and they clean up after them.

Nat sound of clicker...Jenny Brodkorb: "Good Job."

The inmates say they do get attached to the dogs, but they're proud to see them graduate and go on to provide independence for people with disabilities.

Service dogs trained by the Inmate Canine Assistance Program are placed with clients all over the country.