Prison Program Saves Pets, Has ‘Calming Effect’ On Prisoners

It’s a win-win situation. A prison program that began a year ago in July saved 43 dogs and 16 cats. At the Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC), located south of Hagerstown, the program has been a success. Inmates of MCTC raise the dogs and cats, rehabilitating often severely abused or neglected animals. The animals often tossed away by society are given another chance at life. The animals are rescued from across the region, even being transported from as far as southern West Virginia, according to Herald-Mail Media.

Jessica Stevenson, the case management specialist for the program, indicated that the dogs and cats come from various backgrounds; some of them were abused or neglected such as those who lived their whole lives in a basement, while others had untreated medical issues, or were pregnant animals who needed homes. She stated the following.

“We tend to take animals that came from pretty severe abuse and neglect cases, hoarding cases, dogs that would otherwise not be deemed adoptable by shelters.”

Currently, there are 14 dogs and six puppies in the program. The pets need attention and kindness, and some are given obedience training. according to News About Pets.

The program is run by volunteers and on donations and has partnered with the Allegany County Animal Shelter in Cumberland, the Washington County Humane Society, and the Cumberland Valley Vet Clinic.

MCTC Warden Phil Morgan said the program has had a “total calming effect” on the whole population of the facility, and stated the following.

“You see grown men who have never had an animal since childhood take total ownership, (and offer) a lot of affection toward the animals. It just brings a calming factor to the entire institution when you see inmates walk by, and they’ll pet the animals, stop what they’re doing at midday.”

A study at Kansas State University regarding the benefits of dog training programs in prisons showed that not only do the animals benefit by becoming adoptable, but they also “noted immediate positive effects in the inmates, whom they perceived to become more cooperative and more willing to accept responsibility.”

Stevenson indicated that the dogs and cats are well-cared for and it gives them a second chance, noting that “[t]he program’s been really beneficial for the inmate population but also really beneficial for the staff.”

The staff and general public can adopt the dogs. The inmates can adopt the cats they cared for upon their release. Two inmates have taken advantage of this perk.

Inmate Darnell Roberts, 50, has been with the program from day one. He was previously afraid of pit bulls, but has changed his opinion since caring for a pit bull named Cherish for four months. The dog is currently up for adoption. Roberts stated the following, according to Herald-Mail Media.

“Actually, I was afraid of pit bulls until this one was put in my lap. This pit bull is one of the friendliest animals I’ve ever encountered.”

Other programs are in place around the country. 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. They feed them, brush them, pet them, play with them, and clean their space, according to an article in the Inquisitr.

[Photo Courtesy The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services]