Re-Entry Dog Meets Holder

WHEELING – When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Wheeling last week, he got some quality face time with Louie the “re-entry dog,” a 40-pound poodle transitioning back into society after doing time in an Ohio prison.

William J. Ihlenfeld II, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, said he felt it was appropriate for Louie and Holder to meet since the Attorney General is known for his efforts to help federal prisoners re-enter society after serving time.

“My family recently adopted Louie from the North Central Correctional Complex in Marion, Ohio,” Ihlenfeld said. “The facility has a program that allows inmates to train, handle and care for homeless dogs. Once the dogs are ready, families can adopt them.”

He said the program benefits the animal and allows the inmates to develop skills that may lead to employment once they are released. For the most part, Louie minded his manners during his visit with the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

“I warned him ahead of time that if he misbehaved, the Attorney General’s security detail would have to put him down for good,” Ihlenfeld said. “His only mistake was trying to give him a kiss on the face, but the AG was able to quickly move out of the way.”

The prisoner re-entry program was one of many subjects discussed during Holder’s Wheeling visit.

Ihlenfeld said most federal prisoners eventually will be released and the re-entry program is meant to prevent inmates from re-offending and reduce the cost of prison overpopulation.

“No attorney general has ever placed so much emphasis on re-entry programming and on helping inmates make a smooth transition back into society,” he said of Holder.

Holder announced Nov. 14 that the Justice Department awarded more than $62 million in grants to strengthen efforts to help people returning from prison rejoin their communities and become productive, law-abiding citizens. He said successful re-entry is a top priority at the Justice Department and a central part of his new “Smart on Crime” initiative.

Ihlenfeld said his office also has emphasized re-entry, particularly with female prisoners in the Northern District of West Virginia.

“We are helping them before they get out so they are ready to find a job and housing and to become productive members of society,” he said. “We also work with the YWCA of Wheeling and its program that helps women who have been in prison to get their feet on the ground once released.”