Prison inmates, along with veterans suffering with PTSD, find a second chance at life through their love and care of puppiesIncarcerated for murder and armed robbery, New York criminals learn to love again by raising puppies behind bars. In this inspirational tale, three selected prisoners battle self-doubt, anger and regret in their attempt to transform dependent pups into service dogs for injured US veterans. Bound together by fate, this uniquely vulnerable trio of puppy, prisoner and veteran come to discover the redemptive power of second chances.
“I was thinking somebody's after me, you know? I'm back in Afghanistan. And I'm gonna kill somebody”. A veteran, Mark Beam, recalls the day he suffered a nervous breakdown due to the devastating effects of PTSD, injuring himself in the process. “I came around and saw all the blood and I thought, "What have I done?" I didn't know I had it in me”.
Rehabilitation for veterans like these is at the heart ‘Puppies Behind Bars' and the stakes couldn’t be higher for everyone involved. The inmates, all guilty of violent crimes, simply must succeed. There to keep the these hardened criminals under control is Gloria Gilbert Stoga, the strict leader of the program. "I have to be tough, 'cause we're working with a tough population. We're not working with a bunch of nuns or grandmothers". Gloria, through her tough methods, quickly asserts her command and gains the respect of the prisoners. "When she lights that fire, when she gets to that boiling point, you don't want to be a target in her radar", jokes one of the inmates.
Unlikely friendships are forged throughout the gruelling project, and whilst the prisoners gain something priceless, they must also learn to accept loss. “I will forever treasure every memory that we created throughout our journey, and I shall always love you”, Luis Diaz says as he tearfully says goodbye to his fully trained dog. Mark Beam, now partnered with his four-legged friend, can now look forward to a new future. “I can never, ever, ever repay you for what you've done”.
This moving documentary shows that forgiveness and new beginnings can come from the most remarkable of places. Official Selection - Tribeca Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - Rhode Island International Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - Portland Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - Skyline Indie Film Fest 2016
Official Selection - Austin Revolution Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - Vancouver International Film Festival 2016