TUCSON â A new and innovative program to help inmates and staff cope with the pressures of working in a depressing environment.
It is the first time the state is utilizing manâs best friend.
Instead of battling the dark side, Luke and Leia have joined the Pima County Sheriffâs Department and are assigned to the jail as therapy dogs.
They have been in training for nine months.
Corrections officer John Dickinson told News 4 Tucson the brother and sister team have gone through distraction training to make sure they are not aggressive.Â So far so good.
The dogs go into pods and give officers a break by conducting rounds.Â That is when some of theinmatesâÂ stress levels go down.
Corrections officer E. Gracia a dog lover. She said she thoroughly enjoys when the dogs come into her pod she said it makes everybody happy. She also added the dogs have a calming effect on the inmates.
Corrections officer John Dickinson said studies have shown therapy dogs raise oxytocin levels and reduce the stress hormones that you find in jail populations. He added theyÂ are trying to make the jail a safer place by bringing down assaults on inmates, inmate assaults on staff and reduce the suicide rates.
Along with their duties at the jail, Luke and Leia also attend community events. The question often comes up why give the inmates such consideration.
âThis is not just for the inmates, this is a program for the community,âÂ Dickinson said.
In the meantime, âthe force is strongâ with Luke and Leia. The K9 officers often receive letters from the inmates asking when the dogs are coming back into the pods.
Within a few months, Luke and Leia will be certified to interact with the inmates.
The iconic duo and one other dog named Leo were purchased for $20,000 for the Pima County Sheriffâs Department by Arizona Complete Health a health insurance company.
Leo is assigned to the Mental Health Support Team at the sheriffâs department.