Companions on the Inside: Pet Ownership and the Introduction of a Prison Dog Program at Darling Downs Correctional Centre.

Claire Mulcahy (2011). Companions on the Inside: Pet Ownership and the Introduction of a Prison Dog Program at Darling Downs Correctional Centre. MPhil Thesis, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland.

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Author Claire Mulcahy
Thesis Title Companions on the Inside: Pet Ownership and the Introduction of a Prison Dog Program at Darling Downs Correctional Centre.
School, Centre or Institute School of Population Health
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-07
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Dr Deirdre McLaughlin
Dr Kenneth Pakenham
Dr Yvonne Darlington
Dr Jacquie Rand
Total pages 149
Total black and white pages 149
Language eng
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary Prison-based animal programs (PAPs) have been implemented in many correctional jurisdictions. While these programs receive glowing endorsements from stakeholders, the supporting evidence has not kept pace with public opinion. Reviews are commonly based on descriptive, anecdotal, or observational data, limiting the identification of consistent changes that can be reliably attributed to program involvement. As the empirical foundation for PAPs stems from human-animal bond studies, it was the aim of this research to build on advances in this area within the PAP context. To achieve this, a mixed methods approach was used to evaluate the ‘Pups in Prison’ (PIP) program, implemented at an Australian Correctional Centre. This evaluation is comprised of three studies, developed to obtain descriptive, quantitative and qualitative data from the target population. In study one descriptive data were obtained from 90 male prisoners to identify the prevalence of pet ownership and level of pet attachment within this group. The most significant finding from this study was that prisoners kept pets at the same rate as, and with a similar level of attachment to, the general population, suggesting that trends in the generic human animal bond literature are applicable to this group. Salient differences in attitude or psychological health between pet owners and non-owners were not identified. In study two, a repeated measures design was used to explore the impact of PIP on prisoners at Darling Downs Correctional Centre. It was the aim of this study to explore the circumstances in which prisoners are most likely to benefit from PAPs. The Reliable Change Index was used to complement traditional statistical methods and to identify individual changes that could be associated with the introduction of a PAP. For some prisoners reliable improvements in psychological functioning and criminal attitudes were identified. For others, reliable deteriorations were identified. There was no consistent trend in improvements or deteriorations according to level of program involvement (handler or non-handler), offence type or sentence length. There was however an emerging trend for more mature prisoners with higher levels of social support and a history of pet ownership to improve, while prisoners with a history of incarceration who had been rejected for parole more than once, tended to deteriorate. The final study used a qualitative design to obtain experiential information from prisoners and staff. Seventeen prisoners and twelve staff members participated in semi-structured interviews designed to elicit their experiences with PIP. The themes identified indicated that prisoners found dog training both challenging and rewarding. Prisoners and staff viewed the program as a positive initiative with both community and prison-based benefits. Centre- based benefits included a positive shift in social dynamics, increased compliance and sociability and a reduction in prison tension. Individual benefits for prisoners included improved mood, and a greater sense of personal worth as well as opportunities for community engagement and skill development. Theoretically, these experiences are expected to support psychological robustness during incarceration and to assist prisoners in leading an offence-free life on release. Trends in experiential accounts were more consistently favourable than statistical findings. Taken together, the findings from these studies add to the existing PAP and pet ownership literature by identifying a consistency in pet ownership and attachment trends across populations. They also reinforce the importance of individual differences in identifying people who are likely to benefit most significantly from the human-animal relationship. The merits of this PAP and potential for meaningful change in prisoner groups, while statistically non- significant were consistently borne out in the experiential accounts of program participants and the observations of non-participants. This pattern of findings across methods is discussed in the context of program design and prison- specific considerations. To obtain more conclusive evidence of their utility and to demonstrate that this type of intervention is more than meaningful recreational activity, future PAPs need to incorporate an evaluative regime. This regime should include measures of prisoner-centred program outcomes, such as subjective psychological well-being, and draw on both quantitative and qualitative sources of information, to be most representative of program effectiveness.
Keyword Human-animal bond
Prison-based animal program
Psychological Health
Correctional Rehabilitation

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Created: Wed, 30 Nov 2011, 11:52:21 EST by Ms Claire Mulcahy on behalf of Library - Information Access Service