Northern Ireland news

Magilligan to use 'dog therapy' to help inmates with mental health and addiction problems

Jingles, a four-month old Labrador, is the latest recruit to Magilligan Prison staff and has begun intensive training to become an assistance dog for prisoners
Michael McHugh

A NORTHERN Ireland prison is to pioneer the use dog therapy to tackle mental health and addiction problems.

Jingles, a bubbly four-month-old black Labrador, will undergo intensive training on the wards of Magilligan in Co Derry.

Assistance dogs have been proven to address and promote positive changes in behaviour, reduce stress and reliance on medication as well as enhance the development of social skills, self-esteem and self-confidence.

Magilligan Prison in Co Derry is pioneering dog therapy for prisoners with mental health and addiction problems

Magilligan governor Richard Taylor said: "Many of those people who come into our care have mental health and addiction issues, and with numerous pieces of research highlighting the therapeutic benefits of animals it made perfect sense for us to work alongside Assistance Dogs NI.

"Together we are supporting and challenging prisoners in our care as part of the commitment to reduce re-offending and help build a safer community."

Prisons have a significant proportion of inmates with drug addiction, alcohol and mental health issues.

This is the first ever project of its kind within a prison in the UK.

As a young puppy, Jingles has been assisting with challenging interviews within the Prisoner Development Unit and in residential locations.

He has also been involved in family induction visits, and will soon be taking part in therapy sessions at a new wellbeing hub planned by the authorities.

Jingles, a four-month old Labrador, will become an assistance dog for prisoners. Picture by Lorcan Doherty/PA

Geraldine McGaughey, chief executive officer at Assistance Dogs NI, said: "Therapy dogs have been around for a very long time.

"However, this is the first initiative of its kind in the UK.

"The benefits of a dog interacting with a prisoner can build self-confidence and self-esteem, and ultimately play a part in rehabilitation."

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