Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Daily Corrections Clips


Rachel Zirin, The Folsom Telegraph

Editor’s note: This is the third in an intermittent series exploring the programs at Folsom State Prison that benefit our community and prepare inmates for future parole.

For the past three years, the Folsom Women’s Facility at the Folsom State Prison has paired dogs with inmates in the puppy program to train them for those in need of a guide dog.

From children with autism to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, this program trains dogs to be the best.

“We are Canine Companions for Independence,” said Erin Boetzer of Santa Cruz. “There are seven of us girls and we are training service dogs. We teach them the basic commands and after they go off to advanced training. Once they are in advanced training, they figure out what they are best suited for because every dog has a different personality. If the dogs graduate that, they will be placed with a home.”

Each girl in the group has a dog they spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with, said Lieutenant Elton Soriano, public information officer for the Folsom State Prison.

“It helps out people who need service dogs and these dogs are exceptionally trained by these inmates,” he said. “The program provides a form of rehabilitation for the inmates as well. It’s very important for them because it gives them something to care for, something to take responsibility of.”

There are multiple reasons why this program is so important, said Carly Fermer, contract trainer for Canine Companions for Independence.

“The inmates have a lot of time and they seem to really enjoy working with the puppies,” she said. This program helps inmates give back a bit to their community so the dogs can help someone in their everyday life. It’s also a great stress reliever within the prison.”

Soriano said the inmates pay a lot more attention to these dogs than a lot of trainers out on the streets would because they are with these dogs all the time, every day.
“These dogs stay here and the women have to care for them at all times,” he said. “This means taking them out to the restroom, to get recreational time and devote all of their time for training. It is also beneficial for them because they get a sense of giving back and doing something that means something.”

Boetzer has been in the program for the last year and a half and she said the program has taught her so much.

“It has taught me responsibility for things other than myself, to appreciate unconditional love, the joy of giving back to others and getting to do community service,” she said. “These aren’t our dogs, but we are doing this for the greater good. We are doing it to help someone out in the long run.”

Boetzer said it makes her feel really good and it builds up the group’s self esteem that they are giving back to someone who is going to need the dog.

“This program is the best thing in the world because we get to spend all day with fluffy little dogs,” she said. “We just got a brand new puppy named Ticha and she is a golden retriever.”

The program receives the puppies when they are 4 months old and after one year the puppies learn around 30 basic skills. After their initial training, they move onto advanced training in Santa Rosa, said Breanna Hernandez, the program supervisor.

“Advanced training is very difficult and even if the dogs don’t pass, they put them in a different career path where the dogs will be useful,” Soriano said.

The process of being accepted into the prison’s puppy program is very strict and extensive. None of the participants can have crimes such as abuse to animals or people and no sex crimes. All participants have to be disciplinary-free as well.

“This is a strict policy to be a part of this program – so we’re the model inmates, basically. We stay out of trouble and this is our reward,” Boetzer said. “We don’t get any time off. We’re basically single parents raising a child.”

Boetzer said having unconditional love in a place like the prison is huge because there isn’t a lot of it – joy and friendships. 

“I consider every one of these ladies a true friend. I know they care about me and I care about them which is totally rare in this program,” she said. “The dogs have brought us together as a little family and it is amazing.”

Charity Nelson, of Monterey County, has been in the program more than a year. She said the best thing about the puppy program is that it allows them to continue their education such as college programs and they get to bring their puppy to classes.

“Not only are we able to do this and give back to the community, but we can also further our education and do stuff for ourselves so we are also rehabilitating,” Nelson said. “We have to make sure we take them out every hour or so, making sure they are comfortable and have food.”...

Nelson said she never paid that close of attention to her own pets at home as much as she has in the program.

“I can notice when she isn’t feeling well, or when she has to go to the bathroom,” she said. “You would be amazed how well we pick up on all of their habits.”

Nelson said having the puppies in the prison is great because people will come up and ask to pet her dog because they are having the worst day.

“It ends up becoming therapeutic for them,” she said.

Regina Devine, of Fresno, has been in the program for a little under a year and said the program has helped her.

“I have learned a lot about myself,” Devine said. “I have been very self-centered and selfish all my life and this has taught me to care about something that is not going to benefit me.”

The eight dogs currently in the program are Westland, Delphina, Maura, Phil, Ticha, Kellogg, Wednesday and Tatum.

So far, one dog has graduated from the advanced training and was placed with a family in Texas, Hernandez said. Three dogs were released from the program due to dysplasia and fear of children.

“I love my dog so much and I know I don’t get to keep her. I want her to be good to help someone else,” Devine said. “It is a very rewarding job when you see your dog advancing and just progressing.”


District Attorney Seeks to Reinstate Charges Against Eureka Man Implicated in 2014 Murder of 14-Year-Old Boy

Rhonda Parker, Lost Coast Outpost

The District Attorney’s Office will try tomorrow to have charges reinstated against a Eureka man accused of murdering 14-year-old Jesus Romero-Garcia two years ago.

Nicholas Leigl is one of four men implicated in the alleged gang-related slaying of the boy, who was found dying outside a 15th Street home on Dec. 17, 2014. Romero-Garcia had been stabbed three times in the stomach. He also had wounds on his forearm, apparently from trying to defend himself. He lay there an estimated eight hours before he was found.

Leigl’s second preliminary hearing is set to start tomorrow morning before visiting Judge Marjorie Carter. Charges against Leigl, 35, were dismissed in October after the first preliminary hearing, when the judge ruled the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to warrant a trial.

The other three defendants are set for trial in January. They are confirmed gang members Joe Daniel Olivo Jr., 39, his son Joe Daniel Olivo III, 20, and 32-year-old Mario Nunez.

According to investigators’ reports, Romero-Garcia was fatally stabbed at Leigl’s girlfriend’s apartment on P Street. Romero-Garcia had been hiding out there, apparently in fear of gang members who were angry with him.  Leigl  arrived, followed immediately by Nunez and the Olivos.

As Leigl spoke with his girlfriend in a back bedroom, Romero-Garcia was knifed in the hallway.

After the three other suspects left, Leigl reluctantly agreed to drive the boy to a hospital. Instead he ended up on a lawn on 15th Street. The teen died shortly after being found.

After the first preliminary hearing, defense attorney Michael Acosta filed the successful motion for dismissal. He argued there was no evidence presented to suggest Leigl knew the other men were going to arrive at the apartment. Also, Acosta said, there was no evidence indicating Leigl communicated at all that night with the three other suspects. In addition to the murder charge, it is alleged the crime was committed to further gang activities. Acosta also argued there is no credible evidence that Leigl was affiliated with a gang. Police say he had ties to the 18th Street gang.

Olivo Jr. belongs to the Mexican Mafia and was already in Pelican Bay State Prison when arrested. His son is accused of ties to the Sureno gang in San Luis Obispo. And Nunez, a Sureno gang member from Watsonville, was in San Quentin State Prison when arrested.