Prisoners at Magilligan are being encouraged to embrace a new dog therapy initiative to address mental health and addiction issues.
‘Jingles’, a four-months old black Labrador, is the latest recruit to the north west facility and has begun intensive training to become an Assistance Dog for prisoners.
Assistance dogs have been proven to address and promote positive changes in behaviour, reduce stress and reliance on medication as well as enhance the development of social skills, self-esteem and self-confidence.
In the first ever project of its kind within a prison in the UK, Magilligan Prison has teamed up with the charity Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland (ADNI) to train up a dog to work with prisoners.
Jingles has been assigned to a Senior Prison Officer who explained: “He comes to work with me every day, and home again in the evenings. I have taken on the role as his carer and trainer on a 24/7 basis.”
She added: “Even as a young pup, Jingles has already been assisting with challenging interviews within the Prisoner Development Unit and in residential locations. He’s also been on family induction visits as part of his socialisation and, now that he has settled in and has had the opportunity to get used to his new surroundings, he’s going to be involved in therapy sessions in the new Well-Being Hub.”
Working in conjunction with ADNI, Jingles will undergo intensive training for a period of 12-14 months.
Magilligan Prison Governor Richard Taylor said: “Many of those people who come into our care have mental health and addiction issues, and with numerous pieces of research highlighting the therapeutic benefits of animals it made perfect sense for us to work alongside Assistance Dogs NI. Together we are supporting and challenging prisoners in our care as part of the commitment to reduce re-offending and help build a safer community.”
Geraldine McGaughey, Chief Executive Officer, Assistance Dogs NI, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
Therapy dogs have been around for a very long time. However, this is the first initiative of its kind in the UK.
“The benefits of a dog interacting with a prisoner can build self-confidence and self-esteem and ultimately play a part in rehabilitation.”