Prison reform via kittens

Prison reform via kittens

Using animals and compassion to help keep the peace sounds like a good idea to me.

Where I live in the Midwest, people don’t take too kindly to criminals. I’m not making a Western joke here, either; if you serve jail time, people don’t have much respect for you. In fact, I know people whose hobby it is to simply look up outstanding warrants and other legalities online, seeing who they know has records, lawsuits, etc. That’s sort of pathetic to me—do you really have nothing better to do?—but that’s Missourians for you.

Most of the people I know who work at corrections facilities are really good people. And though I don’t know how they are at work, I know that as friends they are loving, caring individuals. We are all different at work, however, and most of these people have made jokes to me about what they’d like to do to inmates (usually involving some sort of harm) or how they wish they had more power, or more restrictions for inmates, and other complaints that bother me. None of them ever say, “I wonder if we treated each other with more love and compassion, if things would be better.”

Because research seems to support that providing inmates with such compassion could be beneficial for everyone involved. Take Seattle’s Cuddly Catz prison program, for example. Not only are stray cats saved by being paired with an inmate to take care of them; inmates themselves seem to be saved, too.

At least twenty states are using these kinds of programs to help foster animals until they can find permanent homes. Known as cat therapy, it’s only used with inmates who meet strict requirements prior to caring for the cats—such as having a job to provide for the cats’ food, medical bills, and spaying or neutering. Considering that many people who own cats can’t even afford all of this, that’s asking for a lot—yet inmates obviously work hard to be able to have their pets.

Perhaps if we remembered that we are all human and we all make mistakes, we could start fostering more love and compassion in both ourselves and the people who are serving time for whatever crime they did (or did not, oftentimes) commit. As a fellow cat lover, I can certainly vouch for how much more at ease, and how much more loving, my cats make me feel. For someone who is lonely and feels as if he or she has nothing to lose, I’m sure the feeling is even deeper.