We travel to Craven Correctional Institution and speak with inmates who are training dogs from local animal shelters, part of the statewide New Leash On Life program.
Dogs have long been called man’s best friend. Today, we highlight the statewide prison program “New Leash on Life” aimed at training dogs for adoption and giving minimum and medium custody state prisoners a chance to turn their life around. In June, I visited Craven Correctional Institution in Vanceboro where the program has been going strong for a decade.
Walking through a maze of hallways and locked doors, Program Director for the New Leash on Life program at Craven Correctional Institution Brenda Malanga leads me to a building located in the interior of the prison. A guard unlocks a door leading to an outside courtyard. Here, four inmates are standing with their leashed dogs practicing basic commands like sit, stay and lay down. Our presence seems to break the dog’s concentration.
“for eight weeks, that’s pretty much what we do. It’s just all obedience training, it’s just all repetition. One thing we do not do is we do not treat train here. It’s done by repetition and praise and affection, that’s pretty much it.”
Inmates who apply to participate in the New Leash on Life program teach their dog basic obedience, with an emphasis on house training, and socialization. Inmate Dwayne Futrell has been working with Luna for seven weeks.
“she’s a two year old border collie corgi cross, she’s very lovable energetic. We’ve done some certain stuff with her, just hiding stuff and she’s really good at that. She loves playing ball.”
He says training takes time, patience and persistence.
“our sit-stays and down-stays consist of, we started at like 30 seconds and we moved them up to 15 minutes of time now. So they’re sitting in 15 minute increments for a down-stay and a sit-stay. We do equal play like if we work for 40 minutes, we give them 40 minutes worth of play. It’s an equal thing. They need both the same amount of exercise as they do training.”
Local animal shelters are key in identify dogs to participate in the program. So far, more than 215 have been trained at Craven Correctional. Furtrell says it’s hard work caring for a dog but the companionship is more than worth the challenge.
“it’s not only a job where you’re taking care of yourself, you have to take care of them and their wellbeing. Therefore, being with them helps you be just an all-around better person. I couldn’t see doing it without the dogs. ”
Inmates in the program start the day at 7 o’clock and lead the dogs out of their crates. They do some indoor house training and then go outside to work with Drake Parker, a trainer from Top Dog Academy. He volunteers to teach the inmates how to train their dogs.
“Dogs can be a bridge back to everybody else, a bridge back to society is kind of how we look at it. In fact, our motto is ‘better men one dog at a time.’ You know, sometimes you got to do something not because you’re getting paid for it, not because you’re getting something out of it, but just because it’s the right thing to do.”
Program inmates spend the rest of the day with their dog by their side. Around 7 p.m. the dogs are crated until the next morning. Superintendent 4 at Craven Correctional Institution Larry Dail says the 12 hour training day is beneficial for inmates.
“they learn responsibility, then that branches off into the inmates being able to take community college classes in veterinarian assistant tech programs, or being certified dog trainers, so it’s just a win-win situation for inmates, staff and the general public.
Craven Community College offers a 120 credit hour vet tech course at the prison where inmates can learn the skills necessary to get a job at a veterinarian’s office or an animal shelter when they are released back into society. The North Carolina Department of Labor also offers inmates an apprentice certification which can help them land a job. Malanga says most inmates decide to stick with the program because they have to complete 4,000 hours of on the job training and a total of 288 hours of related instruction to get the certification.
“when the guys become primary trainers, they usually, unless they get shipped out, they make minimum custody or something like that, they’ll stay primary trainers for two or three years.”
Inmate Ruben Vargas has been involved with the New Leash on Life program for two years. He’s training Katy, a mix mutt.
“Man, she’s a very lovable dog. She’s a little stubborn, you know what I mean? But I’ve had worse than her. She plays with the other dogs, she loves people.”
Vargas completed his vet tech class and is currently working on his GED. He says training dogs has taught him responsibility and determination.
“The dogs, that’s the easy part, you know. Dealing with people is one of the challenging things you know what I’m saying? It’s something I love doing man, and I have plans. It’s really what I want to do when I get out. I might give it a shot man.”
The New Leash on Life program is about second chances; the dogs get a new home and the inmates have an opportunity to turn their lives around. Luna’s human, inmate Dwayne Futrell has been at the prison for three months. And so far, he’s already completed his vet tech class and is working to get his apprentice certification from the State Department of Labor. He also wants to pursue a career working with dogs when he gets out of prison.
“it just gives me something to show the community that I can better myself and I can give back to the community instead of messing up like I’ve done in my life. I can actually turn around and show what good I can do instead of what bad I can do.”
More than 215 dogs, trained at Craven Correctional, have been adopted since the New Leash on Life started in 2004. Program Director Brenda Malanga says they’ve had great success finding homes for the dogs.
“We’ve only had one dog so far that hasn’t been adopted and we’re in the process of back and forth with her of getting her adopted. The rest of the dogs, normally by the time graduation comes around, in all other cases they’ve all been adopted. So we’ve been really lucky.”
Since my visit last month, inmate Rueben Vargas has received his Apprenticeship Certificate from the NC State Labor Department in Dog Training. Additionally, two more trainers have completed requirements to receive their certifications. The eight week course that ended July 10th saw four dogs - Katie, Stella, Bud and Luna - complete the New Leash on Life training. Malanga says so far, three of the four dogs have found new homes, except for two year old Luna. New Leash On Life a program held across the state. It was announced this week that Eastern Correctional Institution in Greene County is closing as a men's prison and will be converted to a minimum security women's prison. There are four dogs there that have been in training for about 3 weeks. All of them are healthy, heart worm negative, spayed or neutered and current on vaccinations. The dogs need to be adopted by the end of August. See below for information on adopting A New Leash On Life dog.
This week, a statewide traveling exhibit called “Freedom For All” went on display at a plantation in Washington County. The exhibit includes illustrated panels which tell the story of slavery in North Carolina before, during and after the Civil War. Freedom For All will be on display at the Somerset Place State Historic Site in Creswell until August 23rd. Built in the 1780’s, the plantation was one of the largest in the South during the antebellum era. It started as a business venture for three Edenton men in 1785 to grow rice. This week, I spoke with Assistant Site Manager Amber Sat
Cities and towns across Eastern North Carolina are beginning to view their rivers as a source of recreation and revenue, and Greenville is no exception. Today, Lee Jenkins tells us about the Tar River Legacy Plan.
INTRO – The public is being asked for its input as a state agency continues the task of managing the reemergence of a bird whose numbers had dwindled severely by the 1970s. George Olsen has more.
Jonathan Shaw started as a District II wildlife biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in 2005. At that time the Commission’s turkey biologist was soon to retire and he was hoping to go out by meeting a particular goal.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is allowing offshore energy exploration to take place along the East Coast, using controversial seismic air guns to find gas and oil deposits. A feature about the surveys and the safeguards in place to mitigate impacts to marine life.
North Carolina residents now have the opportunity to affect fracking policy. The state Mining and Energy Commission is accepting comments and suggestions regarding their proposed regulations. Lee Jenkins has more.
The Down East Journal has a new theme song composed by ECU grad Joshua Tomlinson. He recently finished up his masters degree in music theory and composition. Now he's enjoying his summer break and preparing to start a doctoral program at the University of Oklahoma. We caught up with Tomlinson this week to tell him the good news.
Thank you to all of the student composers who submitted ideas for the contest:
Public Radio East is a media sponsor for the Pamlico Opry summer series. It starts this weekend at the Turnage Theater and is sponsored by the Beaufort County Arts Council and the Beaufort County Traditional Music Association. Kicking off the series is Raleigh based bluegrass/americana band "The Outliers" this Saturday at 8pm. Mac McKee speaks with band member Julie Brown about her beginnings in music and her career with The Outliers.
Bath is celebrating its pirate heritage this weekend with its “There Be Pirates in the Port” event, featuring a historical re-enactment of the report of Blackbeard’s death and two lectures examining the life of Blackbeard and other pirates.
A program that saved the red wolf from extinction could come to an end. This week, we talk to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official about the experimental Red Wolf Recovery Program and the review that will determine its effectiveness.
The largest solar farm east of the Mississippi will break ground soon in northeastern North Carolina. We explore the Capital Partners Solar Project, which will provide power to universities in Washington DC.
Help Public Radio East pick the new theme song for Down East Journal. Please choose your favorite from the following three finalists. All selections were composed by students in East Carolina University's Department of Theory, Composition and Musicology. The project started last Fall and wrapped up before students left for summer break.
Listen to all three selections. Each are numbered 1 through 3. Choose your favorite and email the corresponding number to Public Radio East by clicking here. Thank you for your participation. All emails must be received by July 10, 2014. The winning theme will be debuted on Down East Journal on July 11, 2014.
Research by a team of coastal scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Science is gaining national recognition. The study looked at the rate at which oyster reefs grow and if they’ll be able to keep pace with rising sea levels. After 10 years of study in coastal North Carolina, the results show that oyster reefs grow much faster than previously expected and can also be an effective way of slowing erosion. Public Radio East's Jared Brumbaugh spoke with Dr.