Ashbel T. Wall II, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Connections accepted the 2008 Distinguished Service Award from the Rhode Island Statewide Independent Living Council for the Prison Pup Partnership Program at a Recognition Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, September 24th, at the Radisson Airport Hotel.
In a letter inviting the Director to accept the award on behalf of the department, RISILC Executive Director Camille Pansa praised the program for its “continuous efforts, personal involvement and dedicated commitment to helping those individuals with disabilities and their loved ones who reside here in Rhode Island and our neighboring communities and elsewhere.” Joining Director Wall at the dinner were Chief of Information and Public Relations Tracey Z. Poole, a weekend puppy raiser for NEADS, and her pup, Kricket; and Nelson Lefebvre, Correctional Officer Captain and Deputy Warden Kirk Kaszyk, both of whom have been instrumental in the program’s success in the John J. Moran Medium Security facility.
The Rhode Island Department of Corrections’ Prison PUP Partnership Program began in January 2005 at Moran facility and has grown from two pups to eight at present, plus four in the Donald Price Medium Security Facility. There are plans for further expansion.
NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans was founded in 1976 to provide independence for people who are deaf or disabled through the use of canine assistance dogs. To date, NEADS has trained over 1,000 teams from more than 30 states, averaging 55 new assistance teams (a human partner and his or her trained assistance dog) each year. Many of the dogs are donated or secured as puppies by breeders throughout the country. In addition to dogs trained for hearing and physically impaired individuals, NEADS trains dogs for other types of service, including, but not limited to: ministry, socialization, classroom, therapy, and other specialty needs, as well as walker dogs. Support for the program comes from individuals, foundations, corporations, workplace campaigns, and service organizations. NEADS receives no federal or state aid.
The RIDOC also participates in the newest of NEADS programs, the Canines for Combat Veterans Program, designed so that Veterans who sustain combat-related injuries may receive a service dog from NEADS. Established in October of 2006, when Army Sergeant Roland Paquette was paired with “Rainbow,” Canines for Combat Veterans is the first program of its kind in the country.
In accepting the award, Director Wall applauded the staff who have made the program such a success and spoke about the impact of the program on the employees and inmates in the state’s two men’s medium security facilities, the disabled people who have been teamed with the several RIDOC-trained dogs who have been placed so far, and the RIDOC overall. Noting that the department is often in the headlines for negative reasons, he concluded, “We think we have a lot of positive stories to tell, but none is an easier sell than this program.”
Information on NEADS is available at www.neads.org. A DVD filmed at the Moran facility about the Prison Pup Partnership Program can be viewed on the RIDOC home page at www.doc.ri.gov.