Transforming lives behind bars: Oklahoma’s ‘Friends for Folks’ prison dog program paves path to redemption

KTUL - November 23, 2023 11:02 am

Former inmate Brianna Coghill was involved in the "Friends for Folks" program during her prison sentence at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud. (Courtesy: Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections)

An ongoing program in Oklahoma prisons is helping change the lives of inmates, and abandoned dogs.

It’s called the “Friends for Folks” prison dog program.

Training rescue dogs helped land one former inmate a job at the University Animal Hospital in Norman.

“You always want to hope for the best, but wow.,” Former program participant Brianna Coghill said. “What a blessing it has really been.”

Former inmate Coghill had a smooth transition back into society. What helped her get there? Being involved in the “Friends for Folks” program during her prison sentence at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.

“It actually was the most incredible experience that I’ve ever had.”

Coghill trained abandoned animals for eight weeks.

“I wanted to change, and that program did that. It actually gave me a skillset where I felt more confident within myself.”

When officials commuted her sentence, she kept in touch with the program’s executive director, Dr. John Otto. He gave her a job at the University Animal Hospital, where she now works as an assistant veterinary technician.

“It’s really exciting,” Dr. Otto said. “To come from being in an incarcerated position, and moving all the way up and taking care of animals.”

Dr. Otto says the program has done wonders on everyone involved.

“We can see the positive changes in both the animal and the inmate. It’s really incredible. It’s really actually like a miracle.”

This year, Coghill shared her success story with current inmates at the place where she turned her life around.

“There is a future beyond the razor wire,” Coghill said.

Dr. Otto says he’s considering introducing cats to this program.

On Tuesday, January 30, 2024, magician Rob Lake will perform at the Oklahoma City Community College’s Visual and Performing Arts Center to raise funds for this program. You can buy tickets here.


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