My story is a little different as it comes from the perspective of an ex-offender who participated in the Pen pals program when it originally was adopted into JRCC back in the early 2000’s.
My name is Jonathan. I was in the original Pen pals program as a trainer and an inmate at JRCC. I was in the very first Animal Planet special for Cell Dogs. While I trained and worked with quite a few dogs, Shaggy was the one who stood out to me. So intelligent, loving and playful 🙂
I was released after spending almost 8 years in the prison system. Here is my story.
Growing up with no father and a heroin addict mother, most thought I was destined for prison at a very early age. Passed from family member to family member when my mother would end up in jail or rehab was a typical lifestyle for me when growing up. Of course after my mother died of a heroin overdose when i was 14, I went into a downward sprial into the criminal and mentally unstable world.
To make a long story short; I got into trouble at 17; tried as an adult and sentenced to 80 years with 70 suspended (all together), for a string of felonies stretching across 3 cities.
I spent from 1997 until 2004 in the jail and prison system. From 18 years old until I was 26 years old.
At a time in my life when i could not see a light at the end of the tunnel, I had no wher to go, no one to lean on; I built a hard outer shell to protect myself in prison and to make sure everyone knew I didn’t care about anything. Then Pen pals came around. I had a dog who didn’t care where I came from, what i had done or what I looked like. He loved me for me as long as I treated him good 😉
This helped lead to my hard outter shell softening. I started to care, not only about people and other things, but most importantly, myself. I then spent my last few years in prison working with dogs, studying computer books in hopes one day i would get out and change my legacy forever 🙂
Well, here I am; 11.5 years after being released in March 2004. While it surely hasn’t been easy, but I now work for one of the largest IT Consulting Firms in the world. I am married with 3 daughters and identical twin boys due in early september 🙂
I went from prison to minimum wage job to now making close to $200K a year in a leadership role for my firm.
It all started with that dog who showed me that no matter where, who or what; i could be loved 😉 When I saw I could be loved … I knew I needed to give love back 🙂
Hope this story didn’t bore you, just wanted to share and give an update as I was one of the very first Pen pals trainers from JRCC and in the very first Cell Dogs aired on animal planet.