Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


This investigation compared self-esteem of inmates who participated in a dog program with the self-esteem of inmates who did not participate in a dog program. A Midwestern state private medium Security correctional facility with a dog program was utilized. All subjects were males imprisoned for crimes ranging from drug abuse to murder. The dog program had been in place at the facility since the spring of 2002 and always utilized 10 dogs with 10 dog-handlers and 10 back-up handlers. A packet containing test materials was distributed to all of the inmates in the three general population units while they were all locked down for the night. A total of 730 packets was handed out with 108 useable packets returned (15% return. N= 108). Each packet was color-coded to a particular unit so that it would be possible to compare self-esteem scores based on the inmate's unit location. The dog-handler group return rate was 65% (n= 13 out of20 inmates in the dog program). Rosenberg's self-esteem scale was used to measure self-esteem due to its high reliability score for multiple population types. A one-way ANOVA was used 10 compare the self-esteem scores with no significant differences found. Therefore, being in the dog program did not significantly influence the self-esteem scores of inmates who participated in the program. The Lexington Interview Questions were completed only by those inmates who participated in the dog program. These questions had been used in another prison in the Midwest to determine if inmates felt they had been changed by being in the program. Many of these responses showed that the inmates felt mo re responsible, but some had even stronger feelings about the effect the dog had on feelings about themselves or even on how they handled feelings about violence. This investigation was limited due to the use of only one facility and a low rate of return from inmates who did not participate in a dog program. Although there was no significant difference found between the self-esteem scores of those who participated in the dog program and those who did not. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the dog program had a value in this correctional setting. Self-esteem tests alone may not be an effective measurement to determine the effect dogs in prison have on the handlers who care for them. Further research in this area is warranted and may show other ways that a dog program assists inmates to cope not only with their time in prison, but also with their new lives outside the prison walls.


Mary R. Hassett

Date of Award

Spring 2004

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 2004 Darci Wederski


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