ATLANTA (CBS46) — Across metro Atlanta, nonprofits are partnering with jails and jails to match shelter animals with inmates.
This is part of a rehabilitation program where people accused of crimes have been released from prison to give themselves and these dogs a second chance at freedom.
“Oh man, I’m in love,” said Beyond the Bars contestant Jason Weese.
These men hope to rehabilitate these abandoned dogs; the dogs also wanted to rehabilitate them.
“I can relate to these dogs. I know what it’s like to feel like nobody’s going to help you, nobody’s going to be there for you, like you’re lost. You’re stuck, alone. And I was in despair,” Weese said.
“Beyond the Bars” is an out-of-custody program for Fulton County offenders accused of committing crimes.
“I ended up in jail for aggravated assault,” Weese said. “I’m a recovering drug addict. I’ve been sober for eight years and nine months.”
Weese prayed to be part of this program, after being locked up for 7 months.
“This might be a good opportunity for me to interact with an animal that might need rescuing, because I feel like I need to be rescued myself,” Weese said.
He is a truck driver and instead of being locked up in Fulton County, he now lives with relatives in McDonough.
“What I’ve been told is that not every dog is a bad dog. Just like every man is not a bad man. It’s the environment,” Weese said.
It’s a new start.
“I’m passionate because I believe in the healing power of dogs; I believe in the human ability to change,” said Susan Jacobs-Meadows, executive director of Canine Cellmates and Beyond the Bars.
Jacobs-Meadows firmly believes this will break the cycle of crime.
“We work closely with the district attorney’s office. They have to approve referrals that come to us,” Jacobs-Meadows said.
The first phase lasts 90 days and requires participants to report to the “Canine Cellmates” headquarters four half-days a week; the second phase is 9 months. At the end of the year, participants will have their charges dismissed if they have successfully completed the program
“It was a miracle for me,” Weese said. “I have a new interest in the direction of my life.”
Local shelters donate stray or abandoned dogs to the program for rehabilitation and training. To graduate, dogs must pass an obedience test before entering their forever homes — and available for the public to adopt.