The GEO Group – New Horizons Partnership: Training Dogs & Changing Lives
“We’re very fortunate to be partners with GEO at the Moore Haven Correctional Facility… The staff at Moore Haven really believe in our program. They believe in the dogs, they believe in what it does for us, as dogs, and what it does for the inmates. So, they are very open and receptive to any ideas.”Mike DeStefano, Operations Director at New Horizons Service Dogs
Since 1995, New Horizons Service Dogs, a nonprofit organization, maintains its mission to training dogs in order to help serve and assist adults and children in wheelchairs or have other mobility problems. Their unique partnership with the GEO Group offers inmates the opportunity to become dog trainers.
New Horizons’ program helps prisoners, dogs, and the families. They facilitate their program at four prisons in Florida including GEO’s Moore Haven Correctional Facility, as well as the Sago Palm Re-Entry Center, the Dade Correctional Center, and the Homestead Correctional Center. Prisoners are assigned to a dog and work with that dog for several months. Trainers are on-site and assist both the prisoner and the dog in honing their skills. Once training is completed, the dogs are assigned to a family.
The dedication and commitment to helping others whether its prisoners, dogs, or the families, matters. Mike DeStefano, an operations director at New Horizons, admires the work and collaboration that is taking place. “As a facilitator to this, you know the families that are giving of their time and energy, the inmates that are giving their love and training, you know, those are the real heroes to all of this.”
Returning citizens are playing an important part with New Horizons as well. Tim Taylor, a returning citizen, had the opportunity to train dogs during his time in prison and, now, works with New Horizons. That dog-training program changed his outlook on life. He explained, “When you’re in there with a dog and you have to take care of another being, and you get to train this, and make it something different, and it takes your mind away from being in there, and it teaches you a skill.”
Following his release, Tim works remained at New Horizons. He exclaimed, “Best job I’ve ever had anywhere! I don’t know who gets more out of what, what I’m doing, the dogs that I train, or me. And when I see how these dogs are placed and the people I get to help, and all that, there’s no way to describe any of that.”
Partnering with New Horizons Service Dogs reinforces and strengthens the GEO Group’s commitment to providing enhanced in-custody rehabilitation programming. Together, we are changing behavior and improving lives. You can learn more about the partnership here: