HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) –A soft spot for those doing hard time.

Alex DeMetrick reports inmates who are military veterans are using their time behind bars to help make life a little easier for wounded vets with some four-legged help.

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The Maryland prison in Hagerstown houses inmates doing serious time for serious crimes. But  locked up doesn’t necessarily mean shut off.

“For us who have done something wrong, it’s a little bit we can do to try to do something right,” said Kent Brewer, inmate.

That something is early training of service dogs. It’s done in other prisons, but this is the first time veterans who have been convicted of crimes are raising the dogs to aid wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The vet side of you…this is an opportunity for you to step up to the plate and do something unselfish for somebody else,” said Terry Dorsey, inmate.

“It’s a payback to the people who have helped us so much, the disabled veterans,” Brewer said.

But help flows both ways when a dog’s in the middle.

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“To be incarcerated and have a dog, man, this is like no matter how  bad my  day is, that dog is always wagging its tail,” Dorsey said.

After a year of care and training, the first three dogs graduated to the next step in the program.

From their home behind bars, the dogs then go on to advanced training in New York. It’s a goodbye that isn’t easy.

“It’s like losing a friend. And I don’t know. It’s going to be very, very difficult,” Dorsey said.

The next recruits waiting outside the prison gates might help ease that loss.

The advanced training could run three to six months before the dogs are matched with a disabled veteran.

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