By Elisa Black-Taylor
Gwinnett County (Georgia) Detention Center began a new program in October 2013 that will benefit both death row cats, as well as their female inmates. This is an idea that has the potential to save thousands of cats, should the idea catch on in other areas.
The program, called Operation Second Chance-Jail Dogs, began in 2010 between Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department and the Society of Humane Friends of Georgia. The death row dogs put into the program proved so successful that cats have now been added to provide companionship for the female prisoners.
The ladies in Unit 1A have been chosen to care for these euthanasia list rescues, and is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
For those of you not in the United States, these small detention center inmates are mostly in for non-violent offenses. Fraudulent checks, failure to pay child support, or unable to pay a fine for committing a non-violent crime. In other words, you’re putting the cats with women who most likely had a cat or dog at home who are incarcerated for under a year and are of no danger to the cats in their care.
The female inmates have already told Operation Second Chance they’re benefiting from the companionship a cat provides.
The cats in this program are rescued from death row from Gwinnett County Animal Control. Foster homes for cats and kittens are common in this area, with felines going to a temporary home until an adopter or rescue can be found. This new program is similar to normal foster care, except the foster moms are inmates.
While the cats are under the care of these ladies, Jaildogs.org has a website showing available felines and how anyone interested in one of their cats can be adopted. Jaildogs also encourages sponsorship of these cats. After viewing the available cats page, an application for adoption can be found here. A Facebook page set up by Amy Jackson can be found here.
This two minute YouTube video features the dog program where Gwinnett Detention Center staff describe the advantages for both animal and inmate. One part I found interesting is how inmates who may not have said two words to each other are now working in small groups to help the animals in their care. This encourages communication, as well as teaching the inmates the “art” of caring for cats, as well as communication skills.
I personally think this is a great idea, and wish more detention centers would consider doing this. Several months ago I reported on Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina where inmates are caring for a feral cat colony. Inmates are also used at many area shelters where I live, including the one in Greenville where the majority of our cats were saved.
From what I’ve seen, the cats at Gwinnett County aren’t kept in cages all of the time. They spend at least part of their day in a play room environment and even have cat toys to entertain them.
Do the readers like this idea? After keeping up with the number of cats euthanized in high kill shelters for the past three years, I believe this is an idea that should be brought up in other areas. The cats are given a second chance and the inmates are performing a valuable service to their community.