Dog Program Offers Opportunity to Female Inmates

Guest Post by Saige, FPC Danbury

Saige is currently an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, CT. She learned valuable skills and life lessons in several BOP-sponsored dog programs.  Saige is scheduled for release in August 2021.

There is one thing that I have done since I started my time in the Bureau of Prisons over four years ago, train dogs. I was lucky to get into the dog program at my first facility, Waseca FCI in Minnesota. I spent 15 months in Waseca before I became camp-eligible and moved closer to home in Texas.

Utah State Prison inmate Reggie Peck is training Jet, a rescued shelter dog, to be a therapy dog for war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Photo: Derek Petersen/KSL TV)

The dog program gave me purpose.  It gave me comfort, and it offered an opportunity to do something amazing and rare. Through this program I realized I could heal not only myself, but someone else out there in the world who needed the independence and the strength that a service dog could offer. This program gave an amazing feeling of accomplishment to me and the other women in it.

I continued in a similar program at FPC Carswell in Ft. Worth Texas for two years.  I was transferred to Danbury and was happy to become a part of the dog program here.

Instead of training service dogs, we were socializing shelter dogs who had a tough time getting adopted. Giving them a lot of love and a few manners made all the difference. Every shelter dog that came here was adopted into a loving and forever home.

In July 2016, a local NBC affiliate news program did a story about the second chances the dogs were given and how that translated into second chances for the women in the program.  After the segment aired, many of the officers and staff members told me how it brought tears to their eyes.  It really made them appreciate the dog program and how it worked in the best interest of all parties involved. I was so happy and so proud of myself. I was also proud of the dogs who left here and went on to make someone else happy.

My Dog Days End

We suddenly found ourselves dog-less one day after a Clear the Shelters event in town 15 months ago.  All of our dogs were adopted and no dog has stepped foot in here since. Why, you might wonder, would the BOP take away such a wonderful program that did so much not only for inmate and staff morale, but for the community as well?

The answer is one I do not truly know. It is hard to get a straight answer out of the powers that be.  The one thing I can say is that it is heartbreaking. This program was something that taught me, and many others, valuable lessons that are needed in life and skills to use upon re-entry.

For a few months, I was given the chance to go on unescorted furloughs three days a week to the Tails of Courage dog shelter. A shelter volunteer picked me up at 8 am on those days. I worked there taking care of the animals, helping with the adoption process and learning some vet tech skills. This was an amazing and wonderful opportunity … and it was taken away from me. The BOP said that there was too much time left on my sentence to be in the community doing volunteer work.

Female Inmates Seek Opportunities to Improve Ourselves

My point to the above is this: we need more inmate programs to change ourselves for the better. Many of the women here have college educations and had very successful careers before whatever it was that brought them here. Sadly, I feel that many women in prison who are uneducated are unprepared to go back home into the world that they failed in before.

I feel every time something good happens for us, there is a setback or a let-down. We are thirsty for something fulfilling and worthwhile, something that will make a difference in our lives now as well as later.

The dog program is just one example of something good that was pulled from us.  Sadly, it will not be the last. As women, we need more programs to keep us busy.  These programs keep us on the right track for when we get out. I want to go home and prosper. Most women here want the same thing for themselves. I am serving a ten-year sentence.  All I ask is for opportunities to enhance my skill set, and the chance to change.

Weird Guy – Part II

One of my friends from the Camp saw my Weird Guy post.  He recognized the inmate and knows the story of his camp escape.   My friend filled in some interesting details.  This is my friend’s email to me:

“Bond was in my unit at the camp. His name was “Lemuel”, I think. He went by the nickname of “Buck”.  Bond was a good chess player, maybe the best on the ‘pound. He always bragged about how good he was.

We had an early run in when he started to take my clothes out of the washing machine.  He said “you don’t want to fuck with me because I’ve been down a minute”.  I told him I didn’t give a fuck if he was born behind the goddamned wire.  If he ever touched my clothes again, I was going to beat the fuck out of him. He just smiled and could not have been nicer to me after that.

The medical staff told him he only had a year to live and would die before his release date.  He had severe respiratory problems. Every morning as soon as the doors would pop, he would take his rolling walker to the track. Thinking he was out of view, he would exercise and walk the track. I saw him doing this every day for a month.

Bond was a first-class piece of shit. But, he did get me commissary with no markup/cut so I did business with him several times.

Bond Walks

Bond told his cellie, a loud mouth crooked ex-cop named Mike McD (who built his release funds by filing downward departure motions for nearly every black inmate at the camp…$20 per), he was planning to walk (escape).  McD told this to several other inmates but, surprisingly, no one talked.

The day Bond walked, the CO’s didn’t detect his disappearance until the 9 pm standup count.  The guards counted at least ten times. Each time the tension rose as more officers entered the unit, and ultimately a lieutenant called in an assistant warden. They called the marshal service in and they interviewed everyone.

He was going to get me things on commissary as he had done before.  So, I had my wife wire $50 to his son. I was really pissed off because he walked from the Camp two days after he told me to wire the funds.  I told the marshals, if he ever made it back to the camp, I was going to be sure to get my fifty dollars’ worth in “Get some”.

Bond went to Mexico and was supposedly caught trying to get back into the U.S. by the Border Patrol.  He never made it back to the camp, of course, and did the rest of his time at the FMC. I heard he died there.  But, I never cared enough about him to have that checked by my people. I just hoped I would see him one day at the FMC so I could “get some” of my fifty back.

Just shows how you will put your gut feelings about someone aside if you can use them to fulfill your needs.  I never used people like that before. Shows you what being down does to you.”