I have to be honest. I am in love with my 2 year old cat Dale. I adopted him a few months after I got out of prison, when he was eight weeks old, and he was my first cat. My parents raised me to believe that I was a dog lover, but when I met Dale, I knew he had to be in my life.
I spent four years in prison and during that time the only interaction I had with pets was when one of my colleagues in the cafeteria brought their dog back from the CHAMP program, an inmate dog training program for service animals. Only the trainers can interact with the dogs, so I can only look at their cute faces and smile.
Nearly 40 states have some sort of dog program in their prisons, but what about cats? Are cats allowed in prisons?
In this blog post, I’ll cover:
- Indiana State Prison Cat Adoption Program
- Other Prison Cat Programs
Indiana State Prison Cat Adoption Program
Prison cat shows are extremely rare. There are only a few in the United States, the most popular of which is the Indiana State Prison Cat Adoption Program. Cats actually started the project over two decades ago when they went to prison and started having kittens. Now, the adoption program is a partnership with a local animal shelter.
The Indiana prison is a maximum-security facility that houses the state’s death row. Even though most of the inmates at this prison are violent criminals serving extremely long sentences, they are very protective of their furry babies when it comes to their cats. They even build their own cat furniture and make cat toys.
However, it is the cats that really improve the lives of prisoners. Receiving unconditional love from pets has helped some inmates lead more active lives, reducing their anger and helping them to control themselves.
“I have a temper. Once something happened and I wanted to do something very seriously…but Raol had Jinxster in his arms and I just held him until I didn’t have to do something anymore…in my For the first 15 years here, I was trouble…but the Jinx changed all that. I’m a different person now,” said inmate James Stone.
Even prison administrations are noticing the difference. A staff member who has worked in Indiana prisons for more than 25 years said that he has seen many prisoners being transformed into animals without spending a penny from taxpayers.
There are about 75 cats living in the prison, and each cat has its own ID card, just like its fellow inmates. Every prisoner who wants to have a cat must fill out an application form and be approved. When cats are adopted, they live in the cells with the inmates until they are released. The cat then goes home with the prisoner.
The program is so popular that there is a waiting list. There are strict requirements for getting cat approval, and the penalties are equally severe if you break the rules. To be approved, prisoners must have a job and must pay for food and waste through a prisoner trust account.
Indiana State Prison inmates value their cats so much they don’t want to lose them. This results in better behavior and less violence.
So successful was the program that they created the FORWARD (Feline and Offender Rehabilitation and Affection, Reformation and Devotion) program at the Pendleton Correctional Institution, another high-security prison in Indiana.
“Animals are no more at risk of being injured in prison than they are when we adopt the general public,” said Maleah Stringer, executive director of the Human Rights League in Anderson, Indiana. “These people stay out of trouble because they know if they get into trouble, they will lose the program. We have more problems with abused animals in adoptions than we do in prison programs. “
Other Prison Cat Programs
At the Pocahontas Correctional Facility in Chesterfield, Virginia, their pen pal program allows inmates to care for abandoned feral cats. Inmates help socialize the cats and prepare them for adoption into a forever home.
Two prisons in New Jersey have a similar program called Trap Neuter Return (TNR). The program found that prisoners who interacted with cats showed lower rates of recidivism, and prison administrations used it as an incentive for good behaviour.
according to 2006 Prison Animal Program Survey (conducted in 159 prisons in 36 different states):
- 100% reported a reduction in inmate stress levels
- 97% reported an improvement in inmate relationship/trust skills
- 93% reported an increase in inmate self-control
- 89% said the program humanized/calmed the facility
- 85% reported an improvement in the work ethic of inmates
- 80% reported an increased sense of pride/accomplishment among prisoners
Although there are not many cat programs in American prisons, there is evidence that they are very successful. However, many people do not believe that prisoners (especially those on death row) should be allowed to adopt cats.
when indiana state prison was featured in documentary death row 2018, Some viewers took to Twitter to express their outrage at the death row inmates keeping cats. If only they knew the real benefits of the program.
Do you think prisoners of all supervision levels should be allowed to have cats if they meet the criteria? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Death Row 2018 Viewers Shocked To See Cats In Inmates' Cells Cats Find Homes in Prisons—and Reform Inmates Prison-Based Animal Programs: A National Survey https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=238027