Josh and the Prison Pup Program, by Ed Spencer

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“Josh” has spent his entire teenage life behind bars. Yes, Josh made a horrific bad choice at age 13 and has been behind bars for 12 years so far. I first met Josh at Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institute for Violent youth Crimes as a young teen. At age 22 Josh  was transferred to an adult facility. About 9 months ago, Josh was accepted into the Inmate K-9 program where they live with and train dogs for service to the Handicap. They have them for about a year. In so many ways Josh seems like a typical and normal young man. You can take a glimpse of his heart in this letter.  As Josh finds happiness in the K-9 program, this is what he writes:

“Hey Ed, Stuff is going as good as possible…Well not all that much is going on, I’m just sadly counting down the days until my pup leaves. Sometime in July she’s scheduled to leave. I’m going to possibly cry. I look at all the little things we do together now and all the things she does to make me laugh or smile and am getting sad knowing its winding down to an end. I do know that we’ll be getting more pups but Maggie will always have special place in my heart being my first pup in this program. She helped me in so many ways getting over some of my personal difficulties. I know a puppy doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal to people out there, but after more than a decade in such a depressing hostile environment like prison, Maggie  has helped me rehabilitate in ways not a single prison sponsored group or program has been able to do. Love, compassion, responsibility, empathy, are just a few of the words that describe the things I’ve gained from my time with her. Trust me, so much of your self can be lost in prison. I got into the program thinking it would be nice to work with dogs, but came the realization of how much more I gained from it. I’m the happiest I’ve been my entire time here.

Pups in prison 2



………. Volleyball season is over, we lost in the finals. Oh well, our all-star team beat the team that came in from the streets to play us. We had enough to field two teams, so we alternated every other game. It was fun. Well I’m going to go. I’ll no doubt talk to you again soon.     –  Josh”


You can find more about Josh and his story at   Also find stories and testimonies of other Boys behind bars. Read their stories. Listen to their heart.  You can get involved in writing to them and praying for them as well.

There are more than 480 JWLOPs (Juvenile Life With Out Parole) in Pennsylvania. In addition, there are thousands of teens sentenced to 20 to 40 years and 30 to 60 years. Consider getting involved in this encouragement ministry at  You can reach me at for more information about helping juvenile offenders who deserve a second chance at life!

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