Jaildog Kaiser

One quarter of Gwinnett County Jail inmates are in need of consistent access to medical care for mental health issues, chronic illness, and other disabilities and conditions. This currently amounts to almost 600 individuals currently housed within the larger population. 

According to a press release issued by the Gwinnett County Sheriff on Nov. 20, these individuals require an elevated level of “advanced care”.

A growing problem, the official statement outlined their goal “to ensure the highest standard of care is provided to the chronically ill and mental health inmate population of our facility.”

Included in this assessment are those facing significant medical needs which accompany severe alcohol and drug withdrawals. 

As this subset of vulnerable inmates continues to climb in number, the jail has embarked on a mission to renovate, modernize, and specialize areas of the jail to accommodate individuals in need of reliable access to specialized care or services of the in-house hospital.

The overarching goal is to eliminate barriers to urgent care needs and provide continuity of care for at-risk county inmates.

This pivotal effort will require creating space on the first floor for inmates who need “direct access” to the hospital housed in the facility. 

Unfortunately, the available space was also the current home of the popular Jail Dogs Program.

Despite an intense search for alternatives, the location was determined to be crucial for advancing inmate healthcare access.

Per the press release on behalf of Gwinnett County Chief Cleo Atwater: “Our goal is to eliminate unreasonable barriers to inmates needing specialty care. The unit currently housing the Jail Dogs Program is in close proximity to our hospital and will be reallocated to individuals whose conditions require them to be located on the first floor with direct access to our hospital. We conducted an extensive search for an alternative location that can accommodate the program, and determined there are no other suitable options that can meet its specific needs during the construction period.”

The successful and beloved Jail Dogs Program has been active since 2010 in partnership with the Society of Humane Friends. The joint effort has facilitated the adoptions of around 1,500 dogs and cats from shelters and assisted in the vocational rehabilitation of inmates.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office remains “proud of the success of this program and has tremendous appreciation for the countless volunteers and employees, as well as citizens who have supported this initiative for more than a decade.”

Both organizations met recently and defined an ongoing goal to continue investments in therapeutic programs.

In the meantime, they are working to find homes for the remaining dogs. Any animals who remain without homes before the program is officially closed are to be fostered in alternative loations.

In their statement, the sheriff’s office has assured that this is but a “temporary suspension of the program” and the tough decision was made in the interest of an “optimal environment for all inmates”.

Once matters have stabilized and it becomes feasible, the Jail Dogs Program will be resurrected. 

If anyone is interested in stepping up and finding forever homes for the remaining jail dogs, Kaiser (pictured), Nala, Rock and Tien were still available for adoption as of Nov. 20.

For more information, visit the Society of Humane friends website at: www.sohfga.com.

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