In 2015, the Animal Protection League in Indiana began a program called Feline and Offenders Rehabilitation With Affection Reformation and Dedication (FORWARD). In this program, shelter cats are brought into state prisons. The inmates in the prisons help care for these cats, and they provide the animals with tons of love and affection.
FORWARD has benefits for both the inmates and the shelter cats.
Many of the shelter cats have a history of abuse and neglect, and they have trouble trusting people. The inmates are able to help the cats learn to trust again, and they help the cats learn how to socialize. This helps the cats get adopted faster.
The cats are also able to help the inmates.
“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,” the director of the Animal Protection League, Maleah Stringer, told Bored Panda.
Caring for the cats also helps teach the inmates responsibility.
“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,” Stringer said.
The inmates also create different toys for the cats, including cat trees and tunnels for them to run through. Some inmates even knit hats for their favorite cats!
Many other prisons across the U.S. have adopted programs that are similar to FORWARD. One of these programs is called Purrfect Pals, and it takes place in the Monroe Correctional Complex. To qualify for the program, the inmates have to meet a specific set of criteria. They have to have a high level of participation in correctional programs, good hygiene, and exemplary behavior.
Since Purrfect Pals started their program in 2014, over 850 cats and kittens have graduated from the program!
“This undeniably unique partnership has been a success with enormous benefits for both Purrfect Pals and the offenders of E Unit…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 wrote on their website.
Programs like FORWARD and Purrfect Pals have huge benefits for both inmates and cats in need. If you’d like to learn more about FORWARD, check out their Facebook page.
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h/t: Bored Panda