LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Paws For Life Reentry: Making People Whole Again

Paws For Life K9 Rescue saves and improves lives - canine and human - through a variety of innovative, therapeutic and transformative programs and services within and beyond the correctional system. Our corrections-based, dog-centered programs provide social-emotional support, workforce and life skills training, and supportive services to current/former incarcerated individuals so they can successfully rejoin the community upon release.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Opportunities for People Who Have Been Incarcerated

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Due to the lack of available services for the formerly incarcerated and newly reentering population in L.A. County, there is a spiral of need that results in numerous formerly incarcerated people being unable to access the critical supportive services necessary for successful reentry. Successful models that lower the likelihood of re-offense include connecting with post-release providers prior to release to ensure a warm hand-off and immediate, front-loaded post-release services, which include living wage employment, affordable and stable housing, assistance with reestablishing positive relationships with family and the community, continued mental/emotional support, as well as basic life essentials such as enrollment in benefit programs, obtaining valid identification, opening bank and other accounts, and necessary transportation services, among many other resources.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Paws For Life K9 Rescue (PFL) has a proven record of cultural change in multiple California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities. The opportunity to work with dogs incentivizes the attitudes, behaviors and lifestyles conducive to personal responsibility and self-control. As a result, it also minimizes barriers by creating and nurturing positive community relationships with fellow inmates and corrections staff, as well as the program dogs, during incarceration. By providing incarcerated individuals with opportunities to gain productive skills and equip them with strategies to strengthen positive relationships, PFL helps them transform their lives prior to returning to the community. With a participant parole success rate of over 80%, it is evident that there is tremendous focus on preparing our participants for successful reintegration back into the community. Since the launch of the program in 2018, 41 PFL participants have had their sentences commuted, most of whom were serving life-sentences. This is more than any other program in the state. Some of these early commutations are directly linked to the positive effects of working with the dogs - gaining respect and empathy for others; developing a sense of worth and focus; understanding emotions and their power; taking responsibility and accountability for oneself; and learning openness, cooperation and the art of compromise.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Paws For Life K9 Rescue leadership identifies gaps in existing services and unmet community needs, and designs and implements solutions. This is evident by PFL transformative programming inside the adult and juvenile correctional settings, which helps restore the individual and transform the facility. This continues with opportunities and wraparound support provided to individuals upon release, breaking down significant barriers to reintegration to "life on the outside", such as paid employment and assistance with basic life necessities, as well as veterinarian technician training (once the program is launched), that not only provides intensive workforce skills, but it will also help to alleviate the critical shortage of veterinary professionals. The program reduces rates of recidivism, increases successful transition back into community, improves public safety, and breaks down stigma by showing the community that the cycle of incarceration can be broken.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

PFL has entered into non-binding agreements with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of California, Irvine (UCI) to serve as evaluators of our corrections/post-release programming. Together with PFL, they developed plans for monitoring activities and training and identified appropriate processes to collect and store relevant data. Process Measures may include "descriptive statistics" of program participants, such as: age, race, marital status, education, employment, income, etc. Also tracked will be "service outputs" such as: number of referrals for services, number of service plans completed, number of case manager contacts, number and type of employment and training materials disseminated, number of protocols and policies developed, number and type of outreach materials disseminated, number of staff trained, etc. Outcome Measures will include improved housing, improved employment stability, among other relevant data points.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 300

Indirect Impact: 900

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

Paws For Life K9 Rescue runs programs in multiple California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities. CDCR enhances public safety and promotes successful community reintegration through education, treatment, and active participation in rehabilitative and restorative justice programs. All PFL corrections-based program dogs are pulled from LAAS shelters, one of the largest municipal shelter systems in the U.S. All program dogs are trained by our incarcerated/formerly incarcerated program participants for a new home and purpose in life. Companion Pet Partners will assist Paws For Life K9 Rescue with its new Vet Tech training program by offering training, externships and job placements within its network of veterinary clinics.