By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor

(Editor’s note: This is part of a series highlighting happenings around the department.)

CDCR employees do much for the communities in which they live and work. Inmates also pitch in to help. From inmates training puppies to custody staff waiting tables, good-hearted acts abound across the state.

PAW PATROL – According to Lt. Aaron Yderraga, inmates at California Correctional Center have been hard at work training dogs for adoption. The program, dubbed Pups on Parole, celebrated nine years of partnering with the Lassen Humane Society. The nonprofit group takes the pups to the prison for the inmates to train the persnickety pooches on proper behavior. To date, 446 pups have found new homes through the program. Learn more by visiting petfinder.com or call the firehouse at (530) 257-2181 extension 4311 to schedule an appointment. …

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PHONE HOME – Soldiers recently received some help thanks to the counter contraband efforts of Mule Creek State Prison. ISU Lt. Charles Weaver tells us on Aug. 1 prison staff donated 75 cell phones and 100 cell phone chargers to the national non-profit Cell Phones for Soldiers program. Each cell phone, or $5 donation, provides soldiers with more than two hours of free talk time. Nice work, MCSP, and to our soldiers at home and abroad, thank you for your service. …

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VALUING VOLUNTEERS – Salinas Valley State Prison recently held their second Operation Starting Line, put on by Prison Fellowship, as a way to help change the mindset of those serving time from one of hopelessness to hopefulness. According to Lt. Eduardo Mazariegos, the daylong event boasted musicians, speakers, a comedian and a strong man thanks to 50 volunteers on three facilities. “Volunteers are the backbone of rehabilitation,” Warden W.L. Muniz said. “Many of our inmates will eventually leave the institution. Without volunteers to spearhead the transition from a prison cell to a community, we can never hope to lower recidivism. The selfless donations of time and energy from these volunteers make our communities safer.” …

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DINE AND DASH – Three prisons recent joined forces for the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Tip-a-Cop fundraiser. California City Correctional Facility, North Kern State Prison and Kern Valley State Prison staff served hungry diners at Black Angus restaurant in Bakersfield. KVSP AA/Public Information Officer Lt. Michael Betzinger tells us 22 staff members waited tables and raised $3,000 for the Special Olympics of Kern County. Their generous acts were like some of the steaks that evening, well done. …

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SUSANVILLE SERVICE – Thanks to Lt. Greg Crowe for letting us know of the recent service performed by the honor guard from High Desert State Prison and California Correctional Center. When the Wall of Remembrance made its way to Susanville as part of its national tour, the honor guard was there to present the state and national colors. The wall honors those killed in terror attacks as well as those military service members who gave their lives to fight terror. Thanks to the honor guard for representing the department so well. …

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NOT ALONE IN IONE – What started out two years ago with only a dozen participants has become a much larger endeavor at Mule Creek State Prison, according to Community Resources Manager Eddie Escobar. This year, the Torch Run had more than 100 people running or walking the 5K route from MCSP to downtown Ione. Partnering agencies included the Ione police and fire departments as well as the Amador County Sheriff’s Office. “Every year, I am excited to see participation in the Law Enforcement Torch Run increase as staff and local law enforcement agencies become informed about the run. The run is a rewarding way of paying tribute to the Special Olympics,” said Warden Joe Lizarraga. With the help of a few inmate fundraisers, MCSP has already raised over $10,000 this year for Special Olympics. Great job, Mule Creek. Read about the warden carrying the torch to light to cauldron at the start of the games, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2016/08/cdcr-torch-runners-ignite-hope-in-special-olympics-athletes/

Submit items for First Watch by emailing don.chaddock@cdcr.ca.gov.