Wagging tails and barking can be seen and heard from 7 to 8 p.m. March 11 in the Visual and Performing Arts Center during a screening of “Bassett Tales,” a film about how a dog training program was started at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, a state maximum-security women’s prison. Dr. John Otto, a veterinarian at University Animal Hospital, produced the film.
“It’s a collection of stories — or tales — about how you start a dog program at a prison … ,” Otto said.
“The second half of the movie is a series of testimonials about how the program impacts different areas of our society and can help different areas of our society, including the offenders, the children of the offenders and that sort of thing.”
Otto said the idea behind“Bassett Tales” is to convince prisons across the state to adopt a program similar to the Friends for Folks program he helps run at Lexington Correctional Center.
Film and Video Professor Greg Mellott said the program pairs prisoners with “problem dogs,” which teaches them to love at a deeper level and work past the hurt in their personal lives.
“The dogs that go into this program … become healed and transformed, and are out to new lives,” he said. “As hard as it is to say goodbye to something you have loved and has loved you back, you’ve done a really good thing for that life form, and as a result, you have grown in your ability to feel for another living thing.
“That is a huge step forward in rehabilitation … . It really is a huge difference and you’ll be able to hear that and see that and feel that from the people, what a difference in makes in their lives.”
A film about that program recently was nominated for an Emmy. “The Dogs of Lexington,” produced by OCCC students and Mellott, heavily influenced the making of “Bassett Tales,” Otto said.
“Because that program was so successful, other prisons wanted to recreate the program,” he said.
“So, I decided it would be a good idea to make a film about how you start a prison dog program, to be inspirational and also somewhat of a how-to starter program showing how you get it going.”
Mellott said ‘The Dogs of Lexington’ convinced the Department of Corrections to integrate the dog program into the Mabel Bassett prison.
“Oklahoma, as our first film pointed out, [has] the highest per capita incarceration rate for women in the world, in the entire world … .
“No one per capita puts more women behind bars than Oklahoma … and we’re third or fourth for men, so we thought, ‘OK, this would be the perfect place to take this program in and show what that’s like when a program comes into a prison and it’s a brand new experience,’” he said.
Mellott said, because of the first film, dogs also have been brought into Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, Norman Public Schools and paired with Veterans.
He said Sister Pauline Quinn is responsible for starting the first dog program. He said her contribution influenced every prison in Washington state — as well as more than 159 prisons worldwide, including some in Italy, Argentina and Australia — to integrate a program. Quinn will be on campus for the film screening, Mellott said. An question and answer session will follow the screening from 8 to 9 p.m.
Watch ‘The Dogs of Lexington’ on Youtube at www.youtube.com.
For more information about the prison dog program, visit www.friendsforfolks.org or call Mellott at 405-682-7793.
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