Stray cats and kittens–hardened criminals with mental health disabilities. What do they have in common? Walking into the maximum security Indiana State Prison you will find stray cats that have given birth to kittens and from that began the cat therapy program that prisoners claim are helping to change their lives.
Inmates take in the stray cats and kittens and care for them in all ways–learning responsibility, caring, compassion and love. Many of these prisoners are in for hard-core crimes and many of them also have mental health problems and caring and bonding with the fuzzy kittens and cats brings out an unexpected tenderness.
“I’ve been here for over 25 years, and I have seen a lot of offenders transformed by the cats.” Administrator James Stone.
One of the benefits of taking care of animals for prisoners is that they are caring for a companion that is loyal and non-judgmental. This can help give the prisoners self-esteem and certainly help curb the terrible loneliness that many prisoners face. Showing affection for a cat while incarcerated is an acceptable form of affection–one that many prisoners go without for years on end.
The prisoners at Indiana State Prison are very protective of their cats and kittens and build them elaborate cat furniture, make creative cat toys and take excellent care of their companions. Often prisoners will help cat-sit for each other as needed.
A warden at the prison said, “With these cats around, inmates with brutal crimes such as murder have reduced much of their aggression and become gentler.”
This is one of many creative corrections therapies for prisoners and the Cat Therapy Program costs nothing from the tax payers-the prisoners pay for all cat-related expenses either through prison work programs or from family support.