Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Program Name

Criminal Justice

Capstone Instructor

Dr. Kerry Muehlenbeck


This paper assesses the main factors contributing to a high rate of criminal recidivism in the United States. Based on the findings which support a theory of insufficient social therapy programs offered during incarceration, an alternative approach is offered. Animals have long been used as a form of rehabilitation for people suffering from a myriad of physical and mental challenges. Because data suggests that individuals with criminal behavior who re-offend lack a certain level of social competence, the use of animal therapy should be considered as an option. Certain demographics of the prison population, namely those with social and psychological disorders, will be emphasized. And while most companion animals offer the therapeutic qualities necessary to teach compassion, particular attention is paid to homeless dogs. The pairing of homeless dogs with prison inmates poses a unique relationship: both entities have traditionally been rejected by society and are unfittingly misunderstood. Thus, there exists great potential for repeat offenders to reach out to their animal counterpart and seek self-improvement through social and emotional rehabilitation as a preventive measure for re-offense. Theories are developed through collecting existing scientific data, examining current therapy programs, and hypothesizing the best available strategies. Because of the limited available research on this unique partnership, recommendations will be outlined for further scientific research to be performed. The paper concludes with suggested best practices for maintaining existing programs and establishing new partnerships to achieve the greatest level of success.



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