Westchester County Women Inmates And Dogs

Sean Adams/WCBS 880

Stories From Main Street: Using Dogs To Help With Incarcerated Mothers' Parenting Skills

October 21, 2018 - 10:00 am
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VALHALLA, N.Y. (WCBS 880) -- Smiles are hard to come by behind bars, but at the Westchester County Jail, some friendly dogs are changing all that.

Buddy the Labradoodle gets big hugs, and Mambo the black Lab gets plenty of love too.

“It’s a big morale booster – not only for the prisoners, but also for the staff. Everyone gets excited when they see the dogs come in,” said Pace University Criminal Law Professor Kimberly Collica-Cox.

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported in this week’s edition of “Stories from Main Street,” Collica-Cox has won a National Jefferson Award for her unique parenting course for incarcerated mothers.

“I think the dogs bring out a level of caring and nurturing that you often don’t see in the corrections environment. It’s very hard for them to trust others that are here,” she said. “You can open up with the dogs, right? The dogs are very loving. They’re nonjudgmental.”

Drugs landed Rachel in jail. It’s difficult being separated from her 8-year-old son, and the dogs cheer her  up.

“They give us a lot of kisses,” she said. “They calm us down when you pet them – you know, it makes you feel better.”

Jeanette is serving a sentence for driving while intoxicated.

“It’s just a little life and innocence to the jail; comfort,” she said.

Westchester County Women Inmates And Dogs
Sean Adams/WCBS 880

Dr. Collica-Cox aims to instill good parenting skills, so as to help  the women mend their relationships with their children and their families.

“And we use the dogs as an example, you know, of how to implement rules and what happens when we don’t implement rules, and then sort of segue into how we implement rules with children, so since the children can’t be here, they serve as a nice avatar – for example, right – in replacement from the children,” Collica-Cox said.

Westchester County Women Inmates And Dogs
Sean Adams/WCBS 880

With help from Dr. Collica-Cox and the dogs, Rachel is determined to get back to her son.

“I think it’s going to make all of us better moms, you know? This is a dark place, you know, so it’s a light in a dark place,” Rachel said. “It helps us come out and come together as parents.”

Westchester County Women Inmates And Dogs
Sean Adams/WCBS 880