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UNF criminal justice professor shares research on canine-inmate programs

Dr. Jennifer Wesely, UNF professor of criminology and criminal justice, will share her research on

canine-inmate programs, including a course she taught called “The Role of Canines in Inmate Rehabilitation,” on the “Entrepreneurs in Overdrive” radio show on Saturday, August 29 at 1 p.m. on 105.5 FM 660 AM or FL Man Radio.

Dr. Jennifer Wesely and her dog sitting on a beige couch at home

Hosted on the Orlando-based radio station, Overdrive Radio, Entrepreneurs in Overdrive features interviews with local entrepreneurs and visionaries to give them the opportunity to share their individual stories of success and innovation.

Dr. Wesely has several ongoing research projects including work that involves focus groups with locally incarcerated men who participate in canine-inmate rehabilitation programs.

These canine-inmate rehabilitation program participants are paired with rescue dogs, who live with them and learn obedience training before graduating. The research gathered from this program looks at the backgrounds and experiences of the men, particularly the ways that the canine-inmate program transformed them and helped move them towards identity changes that would help them upon reentry. Within the research, Dr. Wesely examined the concept of "criminogenic" masculinity, and how it was interrupted by participation in these canine-inmate rehabilitation programs. The results of this research have been published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation.

In addition, Dr. Wesely will discuss her experience teaching the 2019 Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) course, "The Role of Canines in Inmate Rehabilitation." In this course, Dr. Wesely and her students traveled to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT – the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the US – to work with Canines with Careers (CwC). Canine with Careers identifies, assesses and matches rescue dogs appropriate for prison programs across the country, as well as identifies dogs for roles in law enforcement, search and rescue, and therapy and crisis response.

Also in the course, students became involved with the canine-inmate rehabilitation program in Jacksonville. They visited three different correctional facilities and had the opportunity to sit down and talk with inmates about their experiences and how involvement in the program impacted their lives.

“Seeing students' transformations as they were exposed to new areas of the country and new ways of thinking about rehabilitation through talking with inmates was very rewarding,” said Dr. Wesely.