It may come as a surprise to most inmates and staff at Correctional Training Facility (CTF) that a dog “training” program does not exist in the institution. CTF is one of only two prisons in the entire country that employ a revolutionary approach to educating – not training – service dogs. Jennifer Arnold, Founder and Executive Director of Canine Assistance, created Bond-Based Choice Teaching to reframe the human-canine relationship in love rather than domination.
The second group from Sierra Conservation Center’s (SCC) Prisoners Uniting People and Puppies (PUPP) recently graduated eight former shelter dogs who completed the 12- week program and received their K-9 good citizen certification.
An inmate-trained dog named Tilda is off to fulfill her now deceased trainer’s final wishes by helping crime victims. In June 2016, Tilda arrived at California Health Care Facility so the pup could be trained by one of the inmates. She was 4 months old when offender Ken Millikan began working with her. Getting Tilda trained in the basics, Millikan would encourage other inmate trainers to see the program as a way to help make amends for their past misdeeds. “I cannot change the things I have done in the past, but I can help somebody else have a better future by raising this puppy,” he would often say to the other handlers.
When a new puppy arrived for training at California Health Care Facility, the first order of business was deciding on a suitable name. Many suggestions were made but eventually staff decided to name the dog after one lost in the line-of-duty in 2013.
Seven teams graduated the latest 280-hour K-9 Academy March 23 at the Northern California Women’s Facility, an inactive prison in Stockton used for training. The frequent academies are the product of an approved budget change proposal by The Drug Interdiction Program that tasks CDCR with providing two K-9 teams at each of the 35 adult institutions in California.
Dog handler J. Prado gives his first-person account of the impact a rehabilitative program has had on him, the institution and the community beyond the walls. Others also contributed to this report. “The New Like K-9 (NLK9) dog program here at Correctional Training Facility at Soledad has deeply impacted my life. I have been given a tremendous responsibility in being entrusted with my puppy, Jett,” he said.