Georgia Department of Corrections
James E. Donald, Commissioner
Director of Public Information
Contact: Office of Public Affairs (404) 656-9772
For Immediate Release
ATLANTA–The Georgia Department of Corrections will hold its fifth graduation exercise for the VISION Guide Dog Program on Thursday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m. at Metro State Prison. The prison is located at 1301 Constitution Road, Atlanta, Georgia 30316.
“This is a very effective program that supports restitution and allows inmates to give back to the community and particularly to visually impaired citizens,” said Corrections Commissioner James E. Donald. “Equally important, the Vision program does an excellent job of training inmates and preparing them for ‘in demand’ job opportunities that may be available to them when they re-enter society.”
Eleven inmates have successfully completed this one-year veterinary training program, including a computer technology component. The inmates will receive Certificates of Completion as Animal Caretakers from Middle Georgia Technical College. The Georgia Department of Labor will also provide employment opportunities after the inmates are released. Three VISION graduates gained employment in veterinarian related jobs after leaving prison.
“Our data shows that 97% of inmates in our custody will return home. In order for them to succeed, they must have meaningful work and suitable housing,” said Donald. “VISION offers them an invaluable opportunity to develop customer service skills and corrective thinking skills that will help ensure their successful re-entry into their communities.”
The VISION Program began at Metro State Prison in August 2002 in collaboration with a Florida dog school, Middle Georgia Technical College, and the Department of Labor. Inmate volunteers participate in basic animal husbandry training and the Labrador Retrievers go through basic obedience training. As part of the socialization process, each dog accompanies its inmate trainer throughout the prison - to meals, group therapy and education classes. On weekends community volunteers take the dogs home with them to continue training activities.
When the one-year training is completed at Metro, the dogs are returned to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, headquartered in Long Island, New York to undergo more advanced training for approximately four to six months. Once this step is completed a visually impaired student is matched with a dog and both go through additional training.
The Department of Corrections is the fifth largest prison system in the United States and is responsible for supervising nearly 60,000 state prisoners and over 140,000 probationers. It is the largest law enforcement agency in the state with approximately 15,000 employees.