Prison Training Program Gives Dogs and Inmates a Second Chance

Freedom Tails
By Lauren Davis, June 2011, Updated June 2021

Read our interview with the Freedom Tails coordinator and trainers.

Freedom Tails, a prison dog-training program at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Wash., is barely two years old, but already the inmates have seen remarkable benefits. Within a week of the rescued dogs’ first appearance, one inmate reports, “the tension level dropped to about 50 percent.” With animals to focus their attention and energy on, the inmates are less prone to violence.

For inmate trainers, Freedom Tails offers a sense of responsibility that’s hard to come by in prison, as well as precious positive contact with the community. At the end of each eight-week session, the dogs’ adoptive families gather at SCCC for a dog show, where trainers show off each dog’s skills and introduce them to their new, proud parents. As sad as the trainers are to bid the dogs farewell, they bask in the praise they receive.

Freedom Tails has proven so successful that five other Washington prisons have piloted similar programs, meaning better care for Washington’s rescued dogs and a hopefully brighter future for their incarcerated trainers.


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To support Freedom Tails, the SCCC K-9 Club makes and decorates leather collars and leashes.

For more on Freedom Tails, visit

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 64: Apr/May 2011

Photo courtesy Freedom Tails / Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Lauren Davis is a Berkeley-based freelance writer and editor of The Comic Book Guide to the Mission. She lives with her four-year-old Boxer, Skoda, who doesn't mind playing guinea pig as long as there are treats involved.