“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.