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Documentary Looks at Dogs Living in Mass. Prison


GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. (WGGB) — The Berkshire Film festival gets underway Thursday, May 29th. It featuring movies made around the country, including a documentary shot at a prison in Gardner, Mass.

“Dogs on the Inside” looks at life behind bars for inmates and the shelter dogs sharing a cell with them.

Co-director Brean Cunningham says, when he heard about the experimental program at the North Central Correctional Institute, he knew he had to share the story.

“This was a really innovative idea to put dogs — to find a home for them in prison and, you know, they can be foster homes in a sense,” says Cunningham. “I thought, what an awesome story to bring to life and in the process we saw these wonderful relationships develop between inmates and the dogs.”

Most of the dogs come to the prison as strays from the South, where shelter space is at a premium.

They’re paired up with inmates who become their new foster parents for several weeks, living with and interacting with the dogs until they’re ready for adoption.

But during the months he spent filming inside the prison, Cunningham realized this program offers so much more than a temporary home for stray dogs.

“I wasn’t so sold that they would talk in baby voices to the dogs, I think that was initially the most hilarious and sweet thing,” says Cunningham. “It’s amazing that dogs can to that to just about anybody — the most hardened person, and suddenly they melt.”

He adds, “The prison guards and the inmates, all kind of — it was more symbiotic — they worked together better because of the dogs.”

The experimental program, which started about 3 years ago, has been a huge success. Cunningham hopes that after seeing his film, more prisons will adopt similar programs.

“The big takeaway is, I think, just hope and compassion — that there are second chances for dogs and for people and you can see what the benefits are from that second chance,” says Cunningham.

“Dogs on the Inside” premieres at the Berkshire Film Festival on Sunday, June 1st. For showtimes and tickets, click here.

You can find more information about the film at DogsOnTheInside.com.

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