It’s good to see a truly enlightened approach taken to the rehabilitation of prison inmates while at the same time rehabilitating, socialising and getting ready cats that have come from rescue centres where they could have ended up being euthanized. You can’t help but see this as a win-win situation. I does happen in some jails in America and in this example it is a jail in Gwinnett County, USA.
The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office started Operation Second Chance in February 2010. At that time the program concerned dogs only and some of the dogs had behavioural problems. The male inmates were able to relate to the animals and help them. They gained their trust and turned them into adoptable pets. In return the inmates got something out of the process too. They were doing something useful. It is a healthy, sometimes healing process dealing with companion animals.
After three years of success with dogs, the decision was made to introduce cats to prison life and to allow the female inmates the opportunity to participate in Operation Second Chance.
In order for a woman inmate to qualify as a participant she has to have a good prison record. She has to demonstrate that she is able to comply with prison rules in order to get on and remain on the programme. This is a good thing as it motivates those who want to be involved to comply and fit in.
Also, as expected, the women benefit tremendously from fostering rescue cats some of whom are perhaps semi-feral and need socialising and some require domestication. There is a unit for the cats which appears to be much like a large cat-orientated enclosure with the usual play facilities although to be fair there appears to be too much concrete about but we can’t be too picky about that because this is a prison after all.
The cats’ unit is in the women’s work unit. Once the cats are considered ready for adoption they are advertised on the program’s website.
It seems that the prisoners act as intermediary carers or foster carers to the cats in much the same way that many volunteers affiliated with rescue centres in America foster cats from the shelters before adopting them out.
One inmate says that it is like being back with her kids again who she misses terribly. Another said that because she was not permitted to work, the cats are all that she has. I guess it’s a way of giving her a purpose and it distracts her from prison life.
Bridget Gantt said that “I love it because taking care of the cats takes me away from where I am.”
Another prisoner said ” As women, we come in here broken… To feel wanted and needed, it fills a void.”
There is no doubt that the women who participate in the program feel better about life when given the chance to care for the cats. Each prisoner gets what they need from the program and at the same time they provide a useful service and turn around cats that might otherwise have been euthanized at a shelter and then find them a home. Is definitely a win-win situation.
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