A Southwest Florida woman is questioning a program put on by the Lee County Sheriff's Office. She thinks it may be discriminating against female inmates after her daughter was denied participation.
The Cell Dogs program is designed for non violent offenders to train dogs from homeless shelters during their time in jail, but since it's launch 5 years ago, it's only been offered to men.
The concern came in after FOX 4 aired a story about the 12 week program and how it's transforming the lives of canines and inmates.
A viewer, who works closely with the jail, says when her daughter was incarcerated years ago, she was told the program was not for women.
"I was devastated, I was hurt," the woman said. "My daughter loves animals and I know this would have really helped her during her time. I do think it's discrimination."
The mother says female inmates don't get enough time outside or any exposure to an open field like the men do when they train the dogs.
FOX 4 took her concerns to program organizers to find out why women don't participate.
"It's really all logistics," Col. Tom Eberhardt said. "We can't have the females at the CPU's where the cell dog program is currently run."
Eberhardt adds there are many more men than women in the jails. The majority of the pods house men. There is one four story building where women stay which helps separate men and women from interacting with one another.
The women's facility doesn't have an open space suitable to have the woman's program in place.
"If there was logistically a way to do it we would do it," he said. Eberhardt added there are many other programs available for female inmates who do get three hours a week of outdoor recreational time.
The Sheriff's Office spokesperson says the program could be offered to women down the road if the resources for a new facility become available. He also pointed out the Cell Dog program in Charlotte County is only for women.