YUMA, Ariz. - The Humane Society of Yuma has a long standing partnership with the Arizona Department of Corrections. The Humane Society of Yuma employs inmates Monday through Friday to clean the facility, do laundry, clean dishes and to feed the animals.
This program is essential to the Humane Society of Yuma; the inmates provide labor that would otherwise be too costly to employ at a regular rate. “Being a non-profit, it would be practically impossible for us to actually hire this many people. The inmate program allows us to keep our employee costs down while never jeopardizing the care of the animals we house” says Annette Lagunas, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Yuma.
Although the working inmate program is available at other non-profit organizations and locations, working at the Humane Society of Yuma is in high demand at the prison. “This program is one of many different opportunities that we (Arizona Department of Corrections) offer to help the inmate rehabilitate and give back to the community. The partnership we have with the Humane Society of Yuma has been beneficial for the prison, inmates and the Yuma County Community. It provides a positive learning experience for the inmates and contributes to the community by helping some of our most vulnerable members.” – Carla Hacker-Agnew, Warden for the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Working with the animals at the shelter brings the best out of the inmates; but they are not the only ones benefiting from their work. In their downtime or after all the cleaning and feeding are done, it is common practice that the inmates take the animals out of their kennels to play and train them. In that time, there is always a beautiful display of the animal-human bond. “Nothing softens the heart like the trust earned from an animal whose previous life may have been ‘less than perfect.’ It’s amazing to see some of the transformations in these animals. It’s nothing short of a miracle and extremely therapeutic” says Inmate Goldwyn. Goldwyn has a special connection with the dogs and has a unique skill working with the large dogs that have behavioral issues. The socialization and training these animals receive from the inmates make them more adoptable. So much of the work the inmates do is hands on as they get to know the animals and assist the staff with feedback on behavior. Inmate Goldwyn states, “I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about caring for animals, built good work ethics and learned about responsibility. Working with animals has given me a sense of satisfaction and I feel I have accomplished something important at the end of each day; like I’ve made a positive difference in the world.”
Not only are do the inmates work with the animals but they have been instrumental with the ground keeping, building maintenance and improvements. ”With our big beautiful building come labor and maintenance costs associated with the landscaping and building. Again, thanks to the inmate crews we are able to keep these costs down; so much so, that many of the inmates are able to use their trades they learned prior to incarceration here at the shelter. The inmates have installed cabinets, fixed sprinkler systems and even properly fertilized, trimmed and maintained our trees and shrubs” said Annette Lagunas, Executive Director.
This partnership is a crucial part of the Humane Society of Yuma’s operations. Not only is it a huge cost savings, but it is beneficial for the quality of care for the animals, reduces the stress and labor of the staff and the inmates get to be productive and do meaningful work in the community.