Published: May 16, 2013 10:21 AM EDT
Updated: May 16, 2013 11:14 AM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Corrections professionals from around the nation learned about the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Second Chance Cell Dog Program and the agency’s multifaceted approach to inmate reintegration recently during a national conference.

Representatives of CCSO’s reintegration program, including service-dog-in-training Chico, staffed a booth and shared information during the American Jail Association’s 32nd annual Training Conference and Expo in Grand Rapids, Mich. The CCSO group also presented a two-hour workshop on the program during the conference.

The CCSO booth was the hit of the event – not only because everyone wanted to stop by to say hello to Chico, a friendly golden retriever. Participants also wanted to learn more about CCSO’s ambitious approach to giving inmates the tools they need to thrive when they return to the community.

"Our goal is to provide inmates with the tools and resources necessary to assist them in becoming more productive citizens when re-entering the community," said Corrections Captain Beth Richards. "We want to break the cycle of bad choices."

The cell dog program is a component of CCSO’s reintegration effort, which is designed to help inmates succeed when they are released into the community. The cell dog program promotes self confidence, respect for rules, teamwork and a sense of accomplishment. Other elements of the reintegration include General Educational Development (GED) preparation classes made possible through a partnership between CCSO and Collier County Public Schools.

Also through the partnership with the school district, inmates have access to training based on the best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The training encourages effective time management, solid decision-making and strong interpersonal relationships.

Inmates interested in a career in the culinary arts can find training in the Jail through a partnership between CCSO and its food provider, Trinity Services Group. The goal of the nine-week program is for inmates to earn their food manager certification from the state, preparing them for jobs in the food and beverage industry when they return to the community.

Through a partnership with Southwest Florida Works, inmates can find job opportunities and help with job placement as part of the reintegration program.

CCSO Corrections Department Chief Chris Roberts credited his staff for its dedication to serving the community, inmates and public safety.

“Thanks to Captain Richards and the men and women who work in our jails, our Corrections Department is on the leading edge of reintegration programming and supervisory training initiatives,” Chief Roberts said. “We will continue to lead in these areas to make sure our community receives the greatest possible return on its investments in public safety.”