"CMC Says Goodbye to Eddie's Handler"
On January 4, 2018, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) found Mike Nelson suitable for parole, after serving 20 years for a crime that he committed at the age of 15. Now, at 36, Mike is preparing to make the transition from a life that he has grown up in, to a world filled with endless opportunities.
While incarcerated Mike has contributed his time towards completing a number of self-help and educational programs, while creating a number of groups while at San Quentin State Prison. He has recently expanded one of those programs- Kid C.A.T.- to CMC West.
He has also spent almost two years with the New Life K9s program, dedicating his efforts towards teaching Eddie, who is one of the three recent graduates.
A number of Mike's fellow dog handlers reflect on their time with Mike, wishing him well as he begins his next chapter in life.
There aren't many people who have been more instrumental to this program's well-being and success than Mike has been. He won't be easily replaced, and his presence and contributions will surely be missed. It's been a pleasure to call him both teammate and friend. As he moves forward with his life of restoration, I wish him much happiness and success. -Richie Tran
Mike - as a human being, friend, confidant, counselor, healer, and dog handler - for me, is an inspiration. I have learned much from him about restorative justice, harm, healing, language, speaking out in healthy ways, and how to do the hard work and "sit in the fire" so to speak for growth. He will be successful at anything he decides to do in life, that much I am certain. Thank you, Mike, for being the example that has made a difference in my life, and two programs that I believe in so whole-heartedly. -Wesley Bird
The reason why you are reading this article right now is due to the vision of one particular individual, Michael Nelson. With respect and permission from Rufus Williams (a former incarcerated inmate and NLK9s dog handler at CMC West), Mike expanded on producing a NLK9's newsletter that would bring awareness and attention to all the different components that make the NLK9s dog program at CMC West so special.
I came to personally know Mike when we were teamed up to teach canine Eddie to one day be a service dog. As teammates I learned how serious and driven Mike can be when his heart is committed to a cause. Though complicated and not understood by everybody, in the beginning, Mike was able to capture the respect and backing from his fellow NLK9s handlers. Assuming his role as a leader in the program, he showed - through his actions - that he was serious about bringing a team together to do what is best for our canine buddies. Mike's contributions and efforts to the program have been on full display and are appreciated from both staff and fellow handlers alike.
Earlier this year, Mike was found suitable on his initial parole hearing and will likely be leaving us early this summer. A bittersweet moment, we are happy for Mike; and we will miss his and Eddie's presence here at CMC West, at the same time. I remember Mike telling me that his best case scenario would be for him and Eddie to leave around the same time. Well, Mike, your wish has come true. Eddie is off to bring comfort and happiness to his recipient, law enforcement and NLK9s volunteer, Greg. And for you Mike, you will begin a new chapter on the outside and succeed in my mind, no doubt. On behalf of NLK9s, we thank you for your dedication that you demonstrated while in the program. It was a pleasure working with you and Eddie both. I now wish you both happiness in your NEW LIVES! -Tony Urbina
Mike's last day in prison will be spent celebrating the graduation of Eddie, Hope, and Josie. "There's no better way to be present with my community inside of these walls than to celebrate being of service to others", reflects Mike, as he thinks about his time with the program. He goes on to say, "I will miss Eddie, and I am grateful for the many opportunities that I have been gifted while here at CMC - I leave with a larger community than I came here with."
Mike plans to parole to San Francisco where he will complete a six-month transitional program. His employment opportunities include working for a non-profit, The Ahimsa Collective, as the Restorative Justice Program Director. He also has offers to continue dog teaching.
"I have work to do", explains Mike as he looks forward to continuing doing the heart-work that creates growth and healing opportunities for himself and others.
Written by Tony Urbina, Richard Tran, and Wesley Bird