Mitchell, a yellow Labrador retriever, was donated to the State’s Attorney’s Office by Support Dogs, a national, non-profit organization. Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Grindel and investigator James Magna are Mitchell's designated handlers.
Mitchell’s primary role is to comfort and provide compassion to child victims who are interviewed at the Children’s Advocacy Center. The center assists with the investigation and prosecution of crimes involving the sexual and physical abuse of children.
New legislation went into effect January 1, 2016 that allows facility dogs, like Mitchell, to be used during sex crime proceedings. Mitchell will be able to be present during the testimony of a child or individual with a disability at the discretion of a judge.
The State’s Attorney’s Office also is bringing Mitchell to help at the specialty courts to put others at ease. In Veteran's Court, Mitchell also provides comfort to the veterans who have PTSD. In Drug Court, those dealing with substance abuse take solace in seeing Mitchell as they undergo proceedings.
Recently, the Chicago Crime Commission awarded Mitchell the Paws of Distinction Award. The award is presented to local, state and federal agencies that have made a significant contribution to crime-fighting efforts.
Hitch is a Black Labrador Retriever born on May 3, 2014. Similarly to Mitchell, Hitch was donated to the Lake County State's Attorney's Office by Support Dogs, Inc, a national not-for-profit organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International. Hitch also went through an extensive series of trainings, including a formal program at the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center (SWICC). While at the SWICC program, inmates of the facility actually aid in the early training stages of these facility dogs. After the trainings concluded, Hitch graduated from Support Dogs, Inc., and became a professionally certified and trained assistance dog.
Hitch will be assigned to the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit's Therapeutic Intensive Monitoring Program. The program includes Specialty Courts such as: Mental Health Court, Drug Court and Veterans Court.
The current target population for Drug Court includes offenders who reside in Lake County, are before the court on a class 2, 3, or 4 non-violent felony charge, and are deemed drug dependent but amenable for treatment.
Hitch will be available in the Therapeutic Intensive Monitoring Courts as well as throughout the courtrooms to serve as comfort for those who have entered the criminal justice system due to a mental health illness, and/or traumatic circumstances during their lifetime, or have an addiction.