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Probationers make dogs' days better at shelter
Raquel Soliz and Jennifer Thompson spent Friday cleaning kennels, playing with dogs and straightening things up at the Corning Animal Shelter.
Both women were wearing electronically monitored ankle bracelets.
Soliz and Thompson are on Tehama County criminal probation and taking part in a community service program overseen by the Tehama County Probation Department and Tehama County Sheriff's Department.
"This is an alternative to custody program," said county Chief Probation Officer Richard Muench. "Those inmates who have shown success in the jail or in our Day Reporting Center program are given this opportunity to serve in their communities."
The program is a blessing to the shelter and its dogs.
"This is so exciting," said Kisten Pena, shelter volunteer who works at there daily. "So much that needs to be done will get done now and it will benefit those serving as well as those served."
Within weeks the program work at the shelter will expand to include a crew of at least 10 supervised inmates, Muench said.
"These will be alternative to custody inmates who will work at the shelter for as long as it takes to get things where they need to be. We will get everything done that we possibly can," he stated.
During that period a sheriff's deputy or probation officer will be supervising the crew at all times.
Soliz and Thompson said they check in with their probation officers every Friday.
"It feels good to work here," Soliz said. "I like the dogs and I feel like I'm doing something productive."
Thompson said the alternative to custody program is a good one.
"It gives us the opportunity to help. Everyone needs help, including us, and the dogs included," she stated.
Both women live in Corning and have children at home. They said they appreciate the chance to be with their children everyday.
"This program gives us an incentive to do what we need to do to stay clean," Soliz said.
Muench said all inmates participating in the program are drug and alcohol tested on a regular basis.
"If they fail any aspect of the program or their probation status they are taken back into custody," he explained. "But the county jail is full due to the state's prison realignment program. That is one of the main reasons we have the alternative to custody program and the Day Reporting Center."
On the other hand, Muench said the funds provided the county to deal with the prison realignment program have made it possible to implement these local programs.
"We are doing things differently now. Innovative stuff that the state has given us the funding and incentive to carry out," Muench said.
As Soliz plays with Buster, a pit bull up for adoption at the shelter, she said she would like to go back to college when she gets the chance.
"I would like to be a juvenile probation officer. I've been helped and I would like the chance to help someone else before they get to the point where I am today," she explained.
Thompson also wants to go back to school.
"At first I thought I wanted to go into sports medicine. But now I want to be a probation officer. I want to make a positive difference in peoples' lives," she stated.
As for now, they are both making a positive difference in the lives of shelter dogs. It's a start.