SANTA FE COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) –More four-legged friends are on their way to the state penitentiary in Santa Fe to work with inmates through the “Paws in the Pen” program.

The program was first started in 2021 and allows inmates to train dogs from the Española Humane Society. The program has proven to be successful therefore allowing more inmates to get involved. “We’ve expanded the program to include 14 inmate trainers and we will be pairing dogs with those trainers,’ said Mattie Allen from Española Humane Society.

The program is looking to take things a step further with training. “Before we were just trying to help our underdogs in the shelter get a little more exposure, become you know adoptable and right now, we not only want them to be adoptable, and be great family dogs, but we want them to have a more serious level of training,” Allen explained.

The dogs receive eight weeks of training with inmates. The New Mexico Corrections Department said it benefits both the dogs and inmates involved. “There’s a sense of calmness in there when the dogs are there and that’s because the inmates, they really do care about these dogs,” said Brittany Roembach, public information officer for the New Mexico Corrections Department.

Attorney Denali Wilson with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico hopes the experience will stick with the inmates when they are released. “In my experience across the board, people who have had the opportunity to participate in a dog program will always say that that’s the program that changed their life,” said Wilson.

Allen said some of the dogs in the program are already set up to be adopted.