How do wellbeing dogs help in the justice system?
Dogs are used to improve mental health in a variety of justice and correctional settings. With such high levels of poor mental health in correctional settings, there is a huge opportunity for change.
Having dogs in correctional centres can help:
Provide a calming effect
The calming effects of a wellbeing dog can be seen immediately. When an offender is agitated, anecdotal evidence shows that a dog can help lower their heart rate, slow their speech and help them relax. This calming effect can sometimes last beyond the initial encounter with the wellbeing dog.
Increase coping skills
People in correctional centres have often gone through immense trauma. Many have never had much emotional support and may struggle to deal with their emotions. Interacting with a wellbeing dog gives inmates a better understanding of emotional exchange. In turn, this increases awareness of their own emotions and allows them to better cope with their current situation.
When inmates see and feel the impacts of their involvement with an innocent animal, it can help better understand empathy. It can help them understand how their behaviour impacts other people and can be an important part of the rehabilitation journey.
Give people a sense of belonging
For clients who struggle with relationships, spending time with a wellbeing dog helps them learn about interactions. Animals provide non-judgemental companionship and allow prisoners to feel more secure.
Improve staff mental health and wellbeing
Our program encompasses entire communities. We know that staff who work within justice communities experience burnout, trauma, and a range of challenges that impact on wellbeing. A wellbeing dog can provide valuable support and be involved in a range of positive impacts throughout the day.