puppy July 10, 2018 -- On Thursday, June 28, Pace University Criminal Justice Professor Kim Collica-Cox, Ph.D. won a prestigious national Jefferson Award for outstanding public service, related to her innovative animal-assisted therapy program which helps to heal mothers incarcerated at the Westchester County jail.

Developed in partnership with the County’s Department of Correction and non-profit The Good Dog Foundation, the ‘Parenting, Prison and Pups’ pairs incarcerated mothers with trained therapy dogs to teach them parenting skills as part of their return home after release. Professor Collica-Cox won the award over 75 other nominees nationwide, cheered on at the ceremony by her daughters Antoinette, 24, and Annalise, 6.

Parenting, Prison and Pups is one of 22+ inmate recovery programs in place at the Westchester County Jail. Nationally, it is the first program of its kind to incorporate animal-assisted therapy into a structured classroom curriculum and instills trust in female inmates, many of whom have experienced prior trauma and violence or suffer from mental health issues and addiction.  In working with therapy dogs, the program enhances their parenting skills in an effort to return them to their families and to reduce intergenerational incarceration.

The Jefferson Awards Foundation was created in 1972 by Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis and other members of public service.  The Foundation partners nationally with groups such as the NFL, Yale University, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors in an effort to foster meaningful public service for underserved populations and youth. In addition to Dr. Collica-Cox, the Jefferson Foundation honored Super Bowl Champion Chris Long, who donated his entire 2018 salary to underserved youth, billionaire philanthropist Elaine Wynn, and  Pia Phillips and Abbie Nelson, teenagers who founded Pab’s Packs,  an organization which custom designs backpacks for seriously ill children.

Commissioner of Correction Joseph K. Spano said: “Professor Collica-Cox’s receipt of this prestigious award confirms her commitment to ensuring that incarcerated mothers are provided with transferable skills that are critical for a safe and productive reunification with their families.  Programs like Parenting, Prison and Pups have resulted in a steady decline in our inmate population – to the lowest level since 1986.  This benefit is two-fold: a lower inmate population results in a safer working environment for staff, while also allowing us to provide more programming opportunities for those individuals who are in custody.”

Nira Herrmann, Ph.D., Dean of the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at Pace said: “Professor Collica-Cox truly epitomizes the goals of the Jefferson Award: not only is she fully engaged in supporting an often-forgotten community of incarcerated women, but she has also engaged Pace University students in life-changing experiences with this community. Her personal commitment is expanding outward through her mentoring of students, to touch more and more lives in positive and uplifting ways. She is truly an influential role model and we are very excited to see her excellent work acknowledged with this prestigious award.”