Special Elections Update, Inmates Are Training Service Dogs In Black River Falls, Raising Caring Boys In A World With Many Angry Men

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Several writers have expressed their concern about raising kind, caring boys in a society where traditional gender expectations call for tough, stoic men and the men represented in media are often angry. We talk to a professor of applied psychology to learn more. We also hear about inmates in Jackson County who are training service dogs, and get an update about what is happening with special elections and Governor Walker.

Featured in this Show

  • Special Elections Called For Vacant Legislative Seats

    Governor Walker called for special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats. The positions were held by former Senator Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) and former Assembly Representative Keith Ripp (R-Lodi). Both lawmakers left office to take roles in Governor Walker’s administration late last year. Governor Walker and other lawmakers originally argued that hold special elections would cause voter confusion due to the upcoming midterm election this fall. Lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly were called into an extraordinary session in order to work on a bill that would change the special elections law. However, a lawsuit brought by residents of those districts and two court decisions ultimately pushed lawmakers to abandon their stance. We talk to WPR Capitol Bureau Chief Shawn Johnson about the news and what will happen next.

  • Forging Close Bonds, Wisconsin Prison Inmates Train Service Dogs

    Inmates at the Jackson County Correctional Institution in Black River Falls happily welcomed a batch of new faces to the facility last month: 11 new puppies.

    The black labs arrived for the Can Do Canine Prison Dog Training Program, where inmates are given the opportunity to train dogs that go on to become service dogs in the community.

    “People think it’s just about training the dogs, but I tell ya, the inmates probably get just as much out of the program as the dogs do,” said Dyan Larson, a prison program instructor for Can Do Canines.

    “They’re learning patience and responsibility and how to work with people,” she continued. “Any one of them that’s involved with the program, I think, will leave … and be better parents and better people because of the skills they’re learning in the program.”

    Now in its second year at Jackson County Correctional Institution, the program works like this: the responsibility for each dog is shared between two inmates. The dog sleeps in their cell, spends nearly all of their free time with them. They train the dogs for about a year, starting from the time they’re 4 months old.

    Larson comes into the prison once a week to teach a class to the dogs and handlers. Then, the handlers take what they’ve learned, and work on it the rest of the week.

    Many of the program participants can get pretty motivated.

    “A month on the outside is like a week in prison,” Larson jokes. “You tell these guys to teach their dogs to sit, and you come back the next week … And the dog like does a backflip and goes and vacuums and does your laundry.”

    A dog shares a moment with its handler at The Stanley Correctional Institution in Stanley, Wisconsin. The prison trains service dogs through Can Do Canines. Photo submitted by Dyan Larson

    Prospective handlers are vetted carefully by prison staff to make sure they’d be a good fit for the program. About 50 percent of those who apply don’t even get an interview, Larson said.

    But the program is also a large commitment. Many handlers also have full-time jobs within the prison. After working their job, eight hours a day, they still spend several hours volunteering to train a puppy.

    The dogs leave the facility every other weekend to stay with a foster family so they can get more exposure to the outside world. And after a year, they leave to join a long-term foster family until they turn 2 years old.

    At age 2, the dogs go in for formal service dog training. The ones at this facility will likely become mobility assistance dogs, Larson said. They’re learning to retrieve objects, touch items and let their handlers know about their surroundings.

    Trained service dogs like this are typically worth $30,000, Larson said. Can Do Canines provides them for free.

    Though the inmates know they’re doing good work, parting with the dogs at the end of the year can be tough.

    “They fall in love with them,” Larson said. “They spend more time with their dogs probably than you spend with yours.”

  • Prison Inmates Help Train Service Dogs To Help Their Community

    We learn about a program at the Jackson County Correctional Institution where inmates are given the opportunity to train dogs that go on to become service dogs in the community.

  • How To Encourage Kindness And Caring In Boys

    Many boys are told throughout their young lives to “be a man”, to be tough, and to be aggressive. They’re typically rewarded for these behaviors, sometimes at the expense of other emotions, such as sadness or fear. However, following some recent events–such as the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School–some people have floated various ideas about how to reduce these violent acts. And, because many of the perpetrators of violence have been men, some have asked if rigid gender roles could be negatively influencing boys and men. Niobe Way, Professor of Applied Psychology in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University, joins us to talk about how we can raise boys to more emotionally whole and how it might help them be better citizens.

Episode Credits

  • Judith Siers-Poisson Host
  • Chris Malina Host
  • J. Carlisle Larsen Producer
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Shawn Johnson Guest
  • Dyan Larson Guest
  • Niobe Way Guest