In Indiana Prison, prisoners are allowed to care for shelter cats. They help each other become kinder

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Well-behaved criminals spend hours in a room with cats, feed them and knit hats. And cats get used to people, which increases their chances of a new home.

On January 12, on Reddit, an image of an American prisoner with a cat in a knitted hat in his arms was published. The author of the post claimed that the photo was taken in Indiana prison, where criminals are allowed to have a cat for good behavior. Specifically, this prisoner allegedly knitted a hat for his animal.

The post scored more than 90 thousand upvotes and headed the top of Reddit for the day.

In 2015, the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana announced a partnership with the Animal Protection League (APL). Together they launched the F.O.R.W.A.R.D. – “Rehabilitation of cats and offenders with love, correction, and devotion.” And as part of this initiative, prisoners are indeed allowed to spend time with cats.

What is the point: many cats in shelters grow up in isolation, which often makes them hostile to humans. Consequently, their chances of getting a new home are diminishing. To help cats trust people again, inmates feed them, take care of them and clean after them. It turns out mutual cooperation: cats with people become kinder, like prisoners with pets.

For cats in one of the compartments of the institution, Pendleton made a special shelter. By the fall of 2019, 27 cats are already living there. They do not belong to prisoners — at any time new owners can pick them up. But until then, a specific person is assigned to each animal.

Each offender with good behavior in prison, even a killer, can gain access to cats. Sergeant Jennifer Reinhart, Program Manager, notes that she sees a change in the behavior of prisoners who learn every day to take care of someone and be responsible. “I think it helps them understand what kind of people they want to be in order to transfer this experience after their release,” she says.

The prisoners agree with her. “I think I’m sitting here with cats, because it’s like my second chance, a second chance to become a different person,” says Jonathon Tipson. Brian Harper agrees with him: “I have made many mistakes in my life, so I’m trying to do something good. And helping cats seems like the right thing.”


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