Programs like training shelter dogs, growing produce for food pantries and making items for classrooms aim to instill compassion and responsibility in Missouri prisoners. These so-called Restorative Justice programs are offered to some of the 30,000 offenders within Missouri’s 21 prisons. State Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi says inmates consider these programs a privilege.
“I believe that compassion will make them (prisoners) think twice about committing a crime if they really believe in their soul and in their heart that they have empathy for other people,” says Lombardi.
More than 2,000 inmates in Missouri’s prison system have been obedience trainers for shelter dogs. Lombardi believes “Puppies for Parole” is the most transformative program within the state’s prisons, for the inmates and for the dogs.
“The recidivism rate for those people is much lower than any other inmates,” says Lombardi.
If it wasn’t for the program, many of these dogs once considered unadoptable faced being put to sleep. The department recently celebrated it 4,000th dog adoption.
Lombardi says Missouri has the largest dog obedience training program of any correctional system in the U.S.
Inmates are on track to give nearly 100 tons of produce to more than 80 food pantries throughout the state this year.
“It’s amazing and a lot of the pantries have come to depend on the produce from us,” says Lombardi.
Nearly all of Missouri’s prisons have gardens. Seeds are donated to the state’s prisons to grow the produce.
Inmates have also made about $1 million worth of school supplies like flash cards and coloring books for teachers in some of the state’s poor districts. The raw materials are also donated to the Department of Corrections.