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Paws in Prison educates female inmates for greater responsibility and empathy through the rescue and training of shelter dogs to be adopted by the public. The women who participate in the Paws in Prison program are given an opportunity to earn certifications that could benefit them for job opportunities after prison release.


Over the years this unique program has grown, serving Lockhart, Seguin, San Antonio, Austin, and the surrounding Texas communities.

In December 2007, Paws in Prison was established by founder Machellle Gaconnet to become the first women's only dog training program in Texas prison! Machelle saw how these programs had such a positive impact in various men’s prisons and was offered an opportunity to run one for women only at the correctional facility in Lockhart. In 2014 the program lost its funding through the contracted prison management group. As a result, Friends of Paws in Prison was established to financially support PIP.



We provide a unique training program designed to rehabilitate prison inmates through the dogs we rescue from our local shelters.
Paws in Prison pairs rescue dogs from rural kill shelters with female inmates who learn to care for and train the dogs, through positive reinforcement techniques. Those dogs are then adopted by the general public. Since its inception, over 500 dogs have been placed into forever homes and thousands of women have been rehabilitated!

We offer inmates the opportunity to learn the life skills of patience, responsibility, accountability, teamwork and compassion that they can take with them outside the prison walls as better wives,  mothers, daughters, employees and neighbors. We provide inmates with the opportunity to learn skills within the animal care industry, and training certifications that can help them obtain jobs in their communities upon release.

We believe in second chances, and have seen that compassion change the course of a life. We believe that by helping to heal another, an individual allows their own healing to begin. We believe that when you help someone else you make your own life better. We
believe that with unconditional love, anything is possible.



Many women in prison have experienced trauma from physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Many are mothers, all are someone’s daughter. Like the dogs they train, they come into the prison broken, lost, and abandoned. Throughout the training process, our professional trainers model kindness, respect, and patience to both the inmates and the dogs. These women learn valuable life skills such as patience, teamwork, responsibility, communication
skills, self-confidence, accountability, and empathy. Some have gone on to become vet assistants, groomers, dog trainers, owners and managers of boarding facilities, and volunteers in animal shelters, rescue groups, and animal sanctuaries. Their transformation has a ripple effect for future generations when they return back into society as better mothers, productive employees, and strong women who give back to their communities. Therefore, the success of this unique program affects us all!

Our program does not receive funds from your tax dollars, and in fact saves tax dollars, because ex-offenders who participated in Paws in Prison are less likely to end up back in prison. Funding relies exclusively on grants and individual charitable donations to pay for vet bills, dog training, inmate scholarships, and pet supplies.



The Paws in Prison program at the Coleman all-women’s prison in Lockhart, Texas has grown exponentially over the years. From a small adoption program to a full scale women empowering, skill training, rehabilitating dog rescuing adoption program. With proper funding, you can help us increase the number of dogs rescued each year, offer inmates support for additional training in the animal care industry, and hire more programming staff to help us run and grow this incredible program!


Often times, released offenders return to prison because they don't have the ability to earn a living. In such cases, many return to the life that got them into prison in the first place. Paws in Prison currently contracts with a professional dog trainer who works with the women and their dogs every week. To help save costs, this person also operates as our Executive Director. Through this dual position a program was created to offer inmates the opportunity to learn 
training techniques, as well as life skills, that they can then take into their communities to seek employment. As the dogs advance in their training , so do the women with their skill set, earning in-house certifications and Texas Department of Criminal Justice on the job training certificates.


In 2020, thanks to the support of our donors, we now have a scholarship program used to send parolees to trade schools in the animal care industry where they can become certified as vet technicians, vet assistants, groomers, and dog trainers after their release from prison. In 2023, we expanded the program to allow women still incarcerated to begin their educational journey by offering animal care industry certification through correspondence courses. With your help, we can give the dogs AND the Lockhart Ladies support throughout the program and beyond!



To continue to bring versatility to the women in the program, we also work in collaboration with K9 Service With a Twist (, a nonprofit dedicated to training service dogs for military veterans who struggle with PTSD, MST and TBI as a result of their military service. will occasionally bring in a dog they feel is a good fit for a pair of handlers in the dorm. Since this dog will have a particular set of skills to learn, it gives the women the opportunity to enhance their education and opens yet another door for them as they seek their new position. also occasionally adopts a service dog candidate from us. Their most recent service dog placed with MSgt (Retired) Tracy who served 21 years in the United States Airforce. We are so honored to do our small part in supporting our United States Military and those who’ve served.