ATLANTA, Georgia (CW69 News at 10) – The first senior year of the Beyond the Bars program celebrated a new way of life for their major milestone attendees on December 16, 2021.
Beyond the Bars is one of the very first pre-trial distraction and conviction programs to use shelter dogs to break the cycle of incarceration. Before receiving the certificates for completing the first phase of the program, the dog handlers proudly displayed the work they put into training the dogs. “This program changed life. It taught me to be patient. It taught me to respect other people and other animals, ”said Iman, a participant. “This is the second chance the program has given me to change my behavior and learn that I can do better than what I did,” said Quartez, another participant.
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Canine Cellmates, a nonprofit organization, started the program in September. They work with the public prosecutor’s office to select candidates. “They come together, and dogs, with their magical ability to make a person believe in themselves, can bring so much healing to one another,” said Susan Jacobs-Meadows, executive director of Canine Cellmates. “It was really nice to see the guys making friends during this program and how they bond with their dogs,” said Sara Foltz, a trainer. “Whatever family she adopts, they are pretty decent and family-oriented dogs,” said Iman.
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Meadows reflects the dire situation attendees may have faced without this program. “All of these men might have gone to jail, or certainly longer in Fulton County Jail.” But now they are embarking on a new journey. “I plan to become a certified dog trainer after I complete phase 2 of the project,” said Iman. Once they complete the year-long program, their charges will be dismissed.
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Information on how to support the program can be found here.