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Rescue Dogs — and a Rabbi — Help Prisoner Find Redemption

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VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA — Soon after Jon Grobman was released from prison, where he had once thought he would die, he headed back inside voluntarily — this time with canine sidekicks.

Grobman was returning as the newest hire of a nonprofit group, Paws for Life K9 Rescue, that had been instrumental in his own long and difficult road to redemption.

He won’t easily forget the words of the judge who sentenced him to life without parole. “If I felt that you had any promise to ever amount to anything in your life, I wouldn’t give you this sentence,” Grobman recalled the judge saying.

The takeaway, Grobman said, was that “he determined I had no value to anyone or anything in this world.” Sixteen years later, his voice still shakes from the memory.
Raised in a nonobservant Jewish family in the affluent Bay Area town of Hillsborough, California, Grobman had been in trouble for years. He’d begun experimenting with drugs at a young age, continuing as he struggled with emotional issues. When his parents sent him to a child psychologist as a teen, the doctor molested him (along with many other young boys, including several Jewish victims, over the span of decades).

Stealing to fund his drug habit into adulthood, Grobman continued to get in trouble with the law. In 2005 he ran afoul of California’s “three strikes” law, which suggests a 25-years-to-life sentence for anyone convicted of three felonies.

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