Dog Program Continues to Help Women at Lockhart Despite COVID Restrictions
Though the COVID-19 Pandemic has made things difficult for the Lockhart Correctional Facility, the programming continues as best it can.
Paws in Prison is currently thriving at the Lockhart, TX facility which MTC operates for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).
Residents who qualify become dog handlers, training the animals to be service pets. Extraordinary measures have been taken to not only keep the program running at this time but improve its effectiveness.
Recently, two Paws in Prison participants wrote letters of appreciation for all the hard work done on their behalf.
“Due to the pandemic, visitors and volunteers are no longer allowed inside the prison. Our program director, Ms. Laria and her assistant Ms. Sylvia, are both classified as prison volunteers, so while we previously had several full day classes provided by Ms. Laria and had almost daily visits from Ms. Sylvia to ensure there were no problems and to provide access to our daily needs for the dogs, we found ourselves not only frightened of the pandemic but of losing the one thing in prison that brought meaning back into our lives.
Through the smart program design by both Ms. Laria and Ms. Sylvia, mentors who had previously served as in-house advisors were able to step into the hard-to-fill shoes and taught classes themselves three days a week. Mr. James Kimberly, an employee at MTC Lockhart, also stepped in acting as a physical liaison between Ms. Laria, Ms. Sylvia, and 1 Charlie Dorm. He went above and beyond by bringing new dogs in and taking trained dogs to Ms. Laria and Ms. Sylvia to be taken to their forever homes.
Ms. Laria wears a face mask now and drives an hour and a half one way to be able to hold classes through two fences, using her own dogs to demonstrate. Ms. Sylvia is always at her side equipped with her notebook and mask!”
“On behalf of all the women who were once in or are now part of the Paws In Prison program at the Lockhart Correctional Facility, I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the MTC staff and volunteers who worked together to complete the necessary components needed to award On The Job (OJT) certificates for animal caretakers. Previously dog handlers weren’t recognized for the long hours they put in, even while many juggled their regular work assignments, caring for and training the dogs they lived with 24/7.
In particular we want to thank Warden Brown, Assistant Warden Coffin, [education director] Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Else, and especially our [PAWS] program director and fearless leader Ms. L., and her assistant Ms. Sylvia. With their combined efforts [and support], they were able to secure the OJT certificate for the animal caretaker job title. Many of us take that job assignment very seriously, and it was a long awaited and hard-earned goal of ours to achieve one. This OJT certificate means not only a favorable view from parole but it’s also a major step in the right direction towards gainful employment and for some of us a lifelong career. Because of the OJT certificate, us dog handlers will now be recognized as diligent and hardworking participants in our Program. I can’t thank you enough.”
About Gregory S. Coleman Unit
Gregory S. Coleman Unit is accredited by the American Correctional Association achieving over 99% compliance for both mandatory and non-mandatory standards in its most recent audit. Other accreditations and certifications include the Correctional Education Association and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).