Cats Teaching Compassion: Cats and Convicts

“But I’ll tell you this, there was a guy killed in here because he had spit soda pop onto someone else’s cat.”

Anyone who knows me well knows that I probably tend towards the “conservative” side with my stance on crime and punishment.  I harbor a deep disgust (and fear) of people who have no respect for life (animal or human.)  I believe in the death penalty.  This may come as a surprise to people who see me as a very liberal person.  But because of the high level of empathy I feel, an  unshakable fear of nonexistence/death, and the horrible depths that some portions of humanity have sunken, I believe in punishment.  Harsh punishment, for very violent or sexual crimes. Even if the only thing it serves to do is keep the same person from hurting anyone else (in other words, even if there is no rehabilitative value, or it means an offender’s death.)

However, let it not be said I am without compassion.  And despite my feelings on this issue, I found myself near tears while reading Diane Korten’s inspired article about the cat program at Indiana State Prison.

I mean, these men really love their cats.  They care for them out of their own prison wages (0r sponsorships from family,) they bond with them, they protect them.  And the cats have a profound effect on the inmates as well.  Aside from the requisite good behavior required of an offender to be allowed to participate in the program, the cats seem to be effecting a positive change on a very personal level.  Some of the inmates admit that not only do the cats keep them out of trouble, but interaction with their pets seems to actually calm their aggressive feelings.

Even if you have your doubts as to the offenders’ feelings towards the cats, or even their deservedness of the pleasure of having a pet in prison, there is no denying that this program is a pretty good deal for most of these cats, who come from shelters and might possibly have even been euthanized had there been no one to take them.  The prison also works hard to ensure the safety of all the animals, screening potential inmates in the program for past history of animal abuse.  And as evidenced by the quote at the beginning of this blog entry, the inmates themselves take the safety of their cats very seriously.  (Strangely enough, this also seems to imply that some of the men value the lives of their cats over the lives of one another.)

I have to admit (and many animals lovers would agree) that I have been known to echo a similar sentiment on occasion; that sometimes animals are better than people because they are innocent and act without malice.

Image captured by: alienredqueen

10 responses to “Cats Teaching Compassion: Cats and Convicts

  1. I volunteer for a cat rescue and my “job” is literally just to go in there and give them love. It makes me sad to see some of them go to homes and then be returned. But at least they are no longer on death row, and I can play with them until someone else takes them. There is one we call “Hobo.” He was dumped in the back alley in a box. And he LOOKS like a hobo. Matted fur, scowly face, he hisses when he sees you, yet gets totally silent when you pet him. Like the love confuses him. Each time I go in he looks a little better, the love melting his hardened life. Your kitties are BEAUTIFUL. I love that shadow pic!! Thanks for posting.

    • Thank you so much. (I think they are pretty too 😀 ) And God Bless you for whatever love and joy you can bring those poor cats. Two of my three are shelter cats, and the third was a foster turned-very-expensive-adoption. What I also wanted to mention in that article, but forgot, was that a lot of people (especially around where I live now) don’t like cats and certainly don’t respect them as a life form, but here you have these hardened men being blessed with and bettered by these cats’ company!

      • My big fatty is a rescue also. She was considered (or labeled) “unadoptable.” I can’t stand when I hear that term! It took her a year before she felt comfortable enough to come out from under the bed and hang out with me. There is something priceless about that unconditional innocent love they give. I bet the prisoners feel it. 🙂

        • Same with my Bengal!!! Well, she wasn’t in a shelter, but her previous owners said she peed everywhere. I guess the shock of being moved from there, to my Uncle’s (who has a farm, and exotic animals but is by no means ‘gentle’), to my house made that cat a bitch! She hissed and growled. It took me weeks of sitting in the 6×6 cage (we had to segregate her for a trial period from the other cats) and coaxing, but over 3 years later, she now comes to me for love. She always wanted it, she was just afraid.
          Kids are not for everyone. As long as you are happy with your decision, that’s what matters. There are other ways to make a difference (like your work at the shelter.) Peace.

  2. Cats are freaking amazing – I just wish we could have tigers or cougars (the non-molestation ones) or bobcats that wouldn’t eat you. Or miniature at least. That would be shweeeeeeeeeeet

  3. I absolutely loved the article! I know they did it with dogs and inmates, and even that changed the inmates a lot. But I didn’t know they did it with cats as well. I love it how caring the inmates are for their cats, and protective, they’ve become more respomsible and they think before they act, because they know have a little kitty to care about.
    I’m stunned, I love this article.

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