by Jade Small

Animals are known to heal us. In fact, the therapeutic power of dogs and cats has long been respected and welcomed by us for years.

They help with depression, anxiety and serve as some of the best companions, elevating our moods, decreasing blood pressure.

Their ability to transform lives stems out even further, helping convicted offenders.

The state of Indiana coupled up with the Animal Protection League to start up a rather amazing project at the Pendleton Correctional Facility called F.O.R.W.A.R.D in 2015.

The idea is actually brilliant. Shelter cats are being placed in the correctional facility and inmates are in charge of their care.

The project soon proved to be an amazing initiative for both the inmates and the cats.

Many of these cats come from terrible backgrounds and the ability to socialize with humans in a controlled environment ensures they also get the proper treatment and care they so deservedly need.

Many of these felines aren’t very trusting and end up sitting at shelters for ages being less desirable as adoptees. The program helps them, offering patience and love until they find their forever homes.

The prisoners feed, groom and clean after them, allowing the cats to start trusting again.

The cats aren’t the only ones to benefit -the inmates are provided with an opportunity to learn compassion, 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 APL, 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.

The release of Death Row made people rather angry though, which aired in 2018, showing viewers the story of Indiana State Prison’s inmates who were allowed to keep cats in cells.

People believed that those convicted of such heinous crimes should not have the privilege or responsibility of caring for animals, stating that they cannot be trusted.

More info: Facebook | purrfectpals.org

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