Sgt. Doug at Madison County Jail

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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – It may be a first-of-its-kind approach to keeping the peace at the Madison County Jail.

Madison County Sheriff Jeff Connor has added a new sergeant to the staff: Doug, a one-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever.

Inmate Justin Baker was in jail before Doug joined the staff. Though jail is still nowhere Baker wants to be, he says interacting with Doug and being able to pet him takes the edge off from not being able to leave.

Doug jumped right into Baker’s arms during a break from Baker’s kitchen duties.

“It definitely brings comfort,” Baker said. “I can just see when inmates come forward, going back and forth to court, he brightens their moods. I’ve even seen guys break out in tears when they get to pet him.”

“Doug is a therapy dog,” Sgt. Michael Tassone said. “He’s here for comfort. He’s here for staff as well as the detainees. Whenever you go through (cell blocks) with him, (inmates are) asking about him all the time. If they see me without him, they want to know where he’s at. They want him to stop by and see them. When he’s around, it’s a different tone back there. That’s kind of the point of it.”

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The group Got Your Six Support Dogs of Maryville, Illinois, donated Doug and his $25,000 training cost. Got Your Six specializes in support dogs for veterans and first responders.

“When they see Doug for a brief moment, they let down their guard of being a tough guy,” Sheriff Connor said. “They let down their guard and they’re like, ‘Oh, look at the nice dog.’ They’re reach down. They’ll ask, ‘Hey, can we pet the dog?’ That’s a struggle back here, when you’re in a facility and you’re locked up. I think it just kind of lets down their anxiety.”

The sheriff may expand the program at the Madison County Jail and help other jails start their own.

“We’ve had no negative feedback from anybody. It’s just a win-win,” he said.

“We’ve already got kind of a tough job,” Sgt. Tassone said. “When you introduce someone like Doug that can help you through your day if you’re having a rough day or even if you’re having a good day, he makes your day better.”

Doug is a much-needed connection for both staff and inmates to life on the outside.


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