Inmates and cats are helping each other at a prison in Indiana, the Pendleton Correctional facility. A dozen shelter cats are part of a program where inmates take turns caring for the feline residents, according to ABC News Channel 57. They feed them, brush them, pet them, and clean their space. The cats play with the inmates while leaping on their cat trees. A video of the inmates interacting with the cats can be found here.
Five carefully cleared offenders help take care of the cats, who are located in an old office space. It saves the lives of the cats and brings humanity back to the prisoners, some of whom say that they never really cared about anything before this program. Inmate Barry Matlock noted the following, according to ABC News Channel 57.
“I’ve had not a calm past, so, you know, it’s helped me calm down a lot, grow up and it just feels good to be able to help.”
Funded through donations, the program began in March and is called Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication (FORWARD), according to the Huffington Post.
The cats can be adopted by prison staff or the families of inmates. The hope is that as the cats get adopted, new ones will enter the program who will also, hopefully, also be adopted. Inmate Lamar Hal stated the following regarding the many benefits he receives from his interaction with the friendly felines.
“I always look forward to coming here for those nine hours. It takes a lot of stress away. It keeps my mind on good things, positive things, rather than just sitting in a cell for the majority of the time….Love will change characteristics from anybody’s tortured past. That goes for animals and humans, really.”
The Director of the Animal Protection League in Anderson, Maleah Stringer, where the cats came from, saw the profound effects the cats had on the inmates, softening them and giving them a reason for being, according to the Huffington Post.
“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. That’s a pretty powerful statement.”
One prisoner noted that, ironically, the cats now have more freedom than before even though they are behind prison walls, because they are free to roam the office and are no longer in cages. Michelle Rains, a spokeswoman for the prison, said that the program is working out well. It gives the prisoners participating a sense of responsibility, and many prisoners now want to sign up to participate in the program.
It’s been said that animals can tame us. Charles Barker, a prisoner participating in FORWARD, stated the following, according to the Casa Grande Dispatch.
“This is one of the best parts of my week. It’s very therapeutic. After I did this a couple times, you spend your off days wishing you could go back.”
The cats in the FORWARD program are well taken care of and loved. Not all animals are as lucky. A cat who was severely abused, who rescuers named Bruce Almighty, was being cared for by a Humane Society and veterinarians, hoping that the cat’s legs could be saved. Whoever abused him had tightly wrapped electrical tape around his legs, according to an Inquisitr article. The abuser is being sought.
[Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]