We’ve written of the healing powers of animals for years here at Collective Evolution and many of us have accepted the fact that the therapeutic nature of our pets is truly something to be noted. Cats and dogs have been reported to help with depression and anxiety, and of course serve as some of the best companions, elevating our moods and decreasing our blood pressure. It is not far-fetched to think that their ability to heal and transform lives can go well beyond our standard day to day pet — but to that of those imprisoned and foreseeably ‘alone’ in this world.
The Animal Protection League partnered with the state of Indiana for an incredible project at the Pendleton Correctional Facility called F.O.R.W.A.R.D. in 2015, which has since helped so many. Shelter cats are brought in to the correctional facility so that inmates can be given companionship, and the cats are now in the care of both the inmates and the program facilitators to be sure they are given the proper attention and temporary home.
Due to the nature of the shelters, there are pets that go unseen or ‘unwanted’ and fall under the care of the facility so that they may remain social within the confines of a controlled environment to help with any stress or anxiety that comes from consistent transferring and moving around until they find their forever homes. The prisoners feed, groom and clean after them, allowing the cats to start trusting again. Of course, this project has shown to be a great initiative for both parties!
The cats aren’t the only ones that benefit — the inmates are provided with an opportunity to learn compassion by caring for something that needs love and responsibility – the commitment we all need to understand.
“I’ve had offenders tell me when they got an animal, it was the first time they can remember they were allowing themselves to care about something, to love something,” said the director of Animal Protection League, Maleah Stringer.
“It teaches them responsibility, how to interact in a group using non-violent methods to solve problems and gives them the unconditional love of a pet – something many of these inmates have never known,” the APL writes on their website.
These animal programs are spreading across US prisons, with Monroe Correctional Complex-Special Offender Unit being no exception, teaming up with the organization called Purrfect Pals.
“The MCKC Program has reduced offender idleness, taught offenders about responsibility and increased their self-esteem. Since the program’s inception, offenders have been motivated to enroll in school, obtain jobs, obey unit rules and improve their hygiene so that they may become MCKC participants. The presence of animals on E Unit has added a new calmness to E Unit’s therapeutic milieu and strengthened its community spirit,” Purrfect Pals writes on their website.
Though many were outraged that individuals on death row or pedophiles could participate and overlook the care of such innocent animals, I find it crucial given where we stand as a society today. Connection with another being is the upmost important thing one can practice when disconnected from their true selves. How can we go about aiding those who have done ‘wrong’ if we cannot open our hearts to their own and allow them to work with other living beings to express love?
The truth of the matter is, no matter what crime has been committed, it is up to us to help our fellow brothers and sisters grow, learn, change, and better themselves so that they may be better for when they are released into our world again. It’s stories like these under the care of both facility and program that will help shape a better tomorrow.