MGTC VISION Project Graduation Held at Metro State Prison
Inmates in Middle Georgia Technical College's (MGTC) VISION Guide Dog Training program at Metro State Prison (MSP) in Atlanta recently participated in the program's sixth guide dog graduation exercises. During the ceremony, inmates received certificates from MGTC and the dogs also graduated to their next level of training.
The VISION Project at Metro State Prison is a 12 to 14 month Veterinary Assistant and Animal Caretaker class that provides inmates the opportunity to gain useful job skills and give back to society. Inmates who participate in the VISION project earn certificates for Veterinary Assistant, Animal Caretaker, and Business and Customer Service from Middle Georgia Technical College. The MGTC 4-legged students will be returned to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (GDF) in New York to undergo more intensive training and will ultimately be matched with a visually impaired recipient or a disable veteran, free of charge.
The GDF for The Blind, Inc. is a non-profit organization headquartered in Smithtown, New York. Among their many services, the organization breeds puppies to be trained as guide dogs. GDF is able to provide puppies to Metro State Prison through monetary donations and donations of food, supplies, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and pro bono veterinarian services. The dogs provided for training are specially bred Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and Golden Retriever-mix puppies.
The dogs that just graduated were received at the prison almost a year ago on April 25, 2008. A week prior to their arrival, the inmates began studying their class material and received minimal dog training instruction. After the ten nine-week-old puppies arrived at MSP from the Guide Dog Foundation, the puppies and their inmate caretakers officially began their guide dog training immediately following a ceremony welcoming their arrival at the institution.
During the course of the program, the dogs receive training by carefully selected inmates. The dogs learn manners, basic obedience, and receive daily care and plenty of love from the inmates. The goal of the program is to raise a puppy that is well mannered, confident, and socialized.
During the training program, the puppies reside in kennels specially built by inmate labor for the program. As another important aspect of the training program, the puppies live with Volunteer Puppy Raiser Families on the weekends. These families socialize the dogs even further by exposing them to all types of social situations, including shopping, over the weekend. They also provide a safe home environment, additional love and bonding, and familiarize the puppy with the everyday world. Families pick up their puppy on Friday and return them to MSP Monday morning.
Once they have completed their training at MSP, the puppies are returned to GDF to receive additional guide dog training for 4 to 6 months. After the additional training, the dogs are hopefully matched with a visually impaired recipient. Also, once they have completed their program of study and are released from prison, the inmates receive job search assistance from Middle Georgia Technical College, the Georgia Department of Labor, and the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Middle Georgia Technical College is a leader in the field of Georgia inmate re-entry with certified National Institute of Corrections Re-entry Instructors and is the only technical college within the Technical College System of Georgia to deliver credit course training within the Department of Corrections. Various courses are offered across the state at prisons and pre-release centers. In addition to the programs at MSP, MGTC also offers Culinary Arts, Plumbing, Computer Technology, and Commercial Truck Driving and other programs in prisons across Georgia.
For more information about Middle Georgia Technical College, call 478.988.6800 or log on to www.middlegatech.edu.
At the recent graduation, a set of 12 new puppies were delivered to the facility by the Guide Dog Foundation, Inc. to begin the seventh year class. Inmate graduates greet the puppies upon their arrival.