Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wards in New “Prison Pup” Program Train Abused and Neglected Dogs for Re-adoption into the Community

Rehabilitation Program Benefits Youth and Rescued Animals

CHINO – The Prison Pup Dog Shelter Program recently debuted at the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino. This is the first such program in a California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility. On Oct. 30, the first four dogs planned for the program arrived at the institution and met their handlers – wards who have earned the privilege of perfoming community-service working with rescued animals from local animal shelters. Dogs in the program are rehabilitated from past neglect and abuse issues and then retrained for basic obedience and proper socialization for re-adoption into the community.

“This is a worthy cause for our youth to give back to the community and learn about caring and responsibility,” said Bernard Warner, Chief Deputy Secretary for the Division of Juvenile Justice. “We are proud to be chosen to be part of this program and are hopeful that the dogs in our care can be given to an appropriate citizen in need, to ease them in life’s challenges.”

The first dogs came from Santa Ana in Orange County via the Canine Support Team, Inc (CST). CST is a California based, non-profit organization that provides specially-trained dogs to people with disabilities other than blindness. Since 1989, CST started placing service dogs with people who use wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or canes.

Heman Stark YCF Superintendent Ramon Martinez noted that this service work is consistent with one of the basic tenets of the state’s juvenile system – restorative justice.

“One of the tenets of the DJJ and former California Youth Authority is the concept of restorative justice,” Martinez said. “The restorative justice philosophy assumes that when a ward committed a crime that got them referred to the DJJ, society lost something in that act of violence. Restorative justice allows that ward to perform a series of public service acts that restores, or gives something positive back to the community-at-large in a showing of “amends” for that past wrong.”

It will be the goal of the youth entrusted with these animals to care for these pets, rehabilitate them from past neglect and train them in basic obedience. The program is intense and based on positive reinforcement and social learning theory. The goal of the program is to teach youth about parenting, responsibility and respect for life. Once trained, these dogs then will be directly placed into a loving home.

The dogs will be trained by wards on a team coming from two programs at the Heman Stark facility. The OR Treatment Team currently has 67 wards assigned. The team is divided between two populations: R Company is a high-risk general population; O company is the Incentive Program, which consists of 36 wards. Wards on the Incentive Program must meet minimum criteria of possessing a High School Diploma or GED, or senior status, and be employed within the institution. They cannot accumulate any negative reports for any violent behavior(s) or gang-related activity. All wards on OR are expected to perform community service.

The Prison Pup Program was spearheaded by Sister Pauline Quinn and made its debut in the California correctional institutional system when then-Warden John Dovey approved the program to begin at the California Institution for Women in September 2002.

The Canine Support Team is a non-profit organization that provides service to people with disabilities. Nearly 20 years ago, CEO, Founder and Training Manager, Carol Roquemore started placing dogs with people who use wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, or canes. The success of the program has grown from 4 puppies to 20 with more than 50 California inmate participants training the animals for dedicated service in the community.

Recently CST was looking to expand the existing prison-based program. Research of the local animal shelters shows a high kill rate of unwanted dogs left in animal shelters for extended periods of time. The main reason for euthanizing pets is due to limited resources in caring for them. The overall neglect and abuse has left them in a desolate state.

The Prison Pup Program is partnered up with Prison Pup Program Manager, Donna Shawver and Janette Thomas, Chief Operating Officer and Training Supervisor, and Michelle Lee, Treatment Team Supervisor from Heman Stark YCF. The case managers working directly with the program are Jared Mory and Cedric Shiner, both Youth Correctional Counselors, along with support from all the counselors working on the OR Treatment Team.

The Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility is the largest youth correctional facility within the DJJ. This facility opened up in 1959 with an original mission to younger youth in need of reform. Nearly 49 years later, Heman G. Stark is housing some of the state's most violent and older wards with more serious offenses.