by Elisa Black-Taylor
This is a tale of felines and felons. It’s the new brainchild of the Larch Correctional Facility in Tacoma, Washington where shelter cats are being paired with prison inmates.
The Cuddly Catz program, as it’s called, gives inmates of the Larch Correctional Facility a chance to reconnect with a female otherwise slated for euthanasia. The creators of the program say it gives a prisoner a sense of responsibility that hopefully he’ll take back to society when released.
Having a cat in a prison cell is also a means to keep the inmate in line. Do something wrong, and the cat is taken away. And of course, inmates are screened and have to have been on their best behavior before being allowed a shelter rescue in the first place.
So far there are only four inmates in the test program caring for the two cats. Princess Natalie is a long haired six year old black cat with a bad attitude. She was hell in fur at her previous home, destroying everything in sight and biting anyone who tried to stop her. Her caregiver, Joey Contreras, now has her tamed to the extent she can now be brushed and held for short periods.
Clementine is a Persian mix in the care of Richard Amaro. Amaro says the reason he agreed to be part of the test project is the inmates involved get out of a 40 man cell and into a dorm-like setting. It’s been more about having solitude than caring for a rescued shelter cat.
Prison counselor Monique Camancho has only positive things to say about the program. Another four cats are in the plans to be added to the prison population in the near future. She believes the cats not only give the inmates a sense of responsibility, the cats also teach the men to care about something other than themselves.
Please understand these aren’t hardened criminals caring for the felines. These are minimum security inmates, carefully screened for cat compatibility, who won’t be incarcerated for an extended period. There are many inmates in our prison system now due to the bad economy. Not having a job means a person can’t pay child support and will likely go to jail for this. The same holds true with fraudulent checks. Bounce a check in this country, and your freedom may be at stake.
It’s nice to know both the cats and the inmates stand to benefit from the Cuddly Catz program. Hopefully, with the success of this project, other minimum security prisons will follow and more cats can be saved from euthanasia.
Readers, what do you think of this program? I grew up in a town where a trustee serving a life sentence was given a dog as a companion for good behavior. So this concept isn’t new to me. If this idea can save cats and rehabilitate inmates at the same time, more power to it!