Studies have shown that there are many health benefits of owning a pet. The bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. For this reason, they have always been not only our companions but often even healers. Besides, pets have the ability to transform convicted offenders’ lives with love and help them have a better life.
In 2015 in the state of Indiana, Animal Protection League has started a program called Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication (FORWARD). The program has been in place for 4 years and is funded through donations.
The aim of the program is to take cats from shelters and place them in the correctional facility so prisoners could take care of them. Many cats at the shelter abused and mistreated, thus they lack trust in people and have a lower chance of being adopted. For this reason, they need to be loved and cared before they can find a forever home and this program provides it to them.
At Pendleton, shelter cats are taken care of by inmates, and they can roam freely inside the large space, socialize with people and other cats. With the care and love of prisoners, the animals become more social and trusting towards humans.
However, the program quickly proved to be beneficial for both cats and inmates. Cats are not the only ones who benefit from the program. Inmates also get a great opportunity to learn how to care for and take responsibility for a living creature.
“I’ve had offenders tell me when they got an animal, it was the first time they can remember they were allowing themselves to care about something, to love something,” Maleah Stringer, director of the Animal Protection League in Anderson said.
“It teaches them responsibility, how to interact in a group using non-violent methods to solve problems and gives them the unconditional love of a pet – something many of these inmates have never known,” the APL writes on their website.
The program has proved itself very successful. Prisoners say the cats have made a significant difference in their lives. “It’s kind of ironic that these cats had to come to prison to have some freedom,” inmate Barry Matlock said.
However, many people believe that prisoners shouldn’t be allowed to keep cats in their cells because of their crimes. Many of them said that inmates couldn’t be trusted with the pets. What do you think about this? Let us know your thought in comments!
h.t: Cats On Catnip, beyondblindfold