Earlier this month, a heartwarming and transformative event took place at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI). It marked the fifth Joys of Living Assistance Dogs (JLAD) program graduation and passing of the leash ceremony. AICs, EOCI staff, JLAD volunteers, and the fortunate recipients of these exceptional service animals attended the momentous occasion.
EOCI celebrated the graduation of not one, not two, but four remarkable service dogs. These dogs have been more than companions; they’ve been trained to provide invaluable support to individuals in need. The JLAD program at EOCI is a testament to the power of collaboration and dedication.
In 2015, a devoted team at EOCI introduce the service dog program to the institution. This team worked tirelessly for months to integrate the JLAD Service Dog program into EOCI’s culture. It was no small feat, but their hard work and commitment laid the foundation for something truly extraordinary.
The JLAD program officially rolled out in early 2016, and it was managed by the capable hands of Captain J. Frazier. Since then, the program has continued to flourish, impacting not only the lives of the recipients but also the individuals who train the dogs.
At EOCI, there are now four different levels of handlers: Alternate, Secondary, Primary, and Facilitator level trainers. Each of these levels represents a unique phase in the journey of turning a pup into a service dog, and each trainer plays a crucial role in the process.
The passing of the leash is a deeply symbolic and emotional moment in the JLAD program. It’s the moment when the trainer relinquishes responsibility for the dog to the recipient. It signifies the trainers giving up their charge, a dog with whom they’ve invested considerable time, effort, and love. In turn, the recipient receives not only a well-trained service dog but also the hope for a life transformed, where new opportunities await.
Adult in custody, Jose Correa, wrote the following about the passing of the leash ceremony:
“The socializer’s event was great experience. It opens my mind to a new sense of perceptiveness. For, the work that we do as dog handlers and the positive affect we have on the outside community.
When given the opportunity to sit down and speak to a few socializers during the event. I got ask questions about, how long they’ve been a socializer, what gave them interest in becoming a socializer what their favorite cue is to show off to others out there in their community or friends and family, and what effect did it have on them, and what else can we do to be more of service.
Their response to the questions helped me to re-evaluate myself as a person; from who I was, to who I am today. I thank captain Frazier and Ms. St. Peter for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great program. I grow more as a person each day that goes by.”AIC Jose Correa
The JLAD program at EOCI is a perfect example of how the power of rehabilitation and second chances extends not only to the individuals incarcerated but also to the service dogs and the lives they touch. It’s a journey of transformation, healing, and the bonds that form between humans and their four-legged friends.
As we celebrate the fifth JLAD graduation and passing of the leash at EOCI, we honor the dedication, commitment, and compassion of all those involved. The impact of this program reaches far beyond the prison walls, enriching lives and offering a brighter future to those who need it most.
We were honored to have several speakers express what the program means to them and how it has affected their lives.