Cat Therapists and Jail Birds: How Cats Therapy Helps PrisonersPublished September 6, 2011
Flickr User kathy doucette
When referring to folks spending time in prison we often use common expressions that refer to several animal species, such as "jail bird,” "stool pigeons,” "cat burglars,” and "ratting" someone out. But what kind of crime could “innocent” cats have committed, resulting in landing behind bars in a jail designed for humans?
But all you feline lovers out there, before getting upset and raising your hackles, the cats to which I refer are actually making the lives of inmates living in the Lincoln County Detention Center in Nebraska far more enriched and useful, according to Times Live. You see, these cats are providing feline therapy for prison inmates.
County Sheriff Jerome Kramer is definitely thinking outside the box when it comes to providing cat therapy services which will hopefully exert a positive influence on prisoners under his care. Enlisting the help of Sarge, Boots and Nemo, three felines he adopted are presently full time prison “employees,” interacting with inmates in an effort to help them relax and lower their blood pressure by having a worthwhile experience from feline companionship. Boots reports to work in the women’s section of the jail. Nemo works his magic on the men who are on work-release, and Sarge resides in the minimum security area.
The cost of the frequent “Cat Scans” which the kitties routinely perform is cat food and litter. According to Sheriff Kramer, the results of these therapeutic interventions are proving to be quite successful. He said the inmates don't even need a roster to assign duties to care for the animals, because every one of the 20 inmates who share the common areas or rooms with the kitties have become more than willing cat “servants” simply because they thoroughly enjoy the company of the cats.
With his thirty years' policing experience, including working in the prison system, Kramer had been considering the idea of pets as "therapists" for several years. His inspiration for cat therapy was seeing the benefits of cats in residence received by the elderly and sick living in nursing homes.
"If it works in a nursing home, why wouldn't it work here?” Kramer said. “It's the same scenario: people can't get out and we have the same problems with confinement and depression. And sometimes spare time turns into mischievous activity. That's what we need to do with these inmates, keep their time full, make the days go by, and just let them serve their time and get out of here.”
Kramer added, "We're not here to punish them and we want to get them through here with the least amount of incident. We do what we can and the cats seem to be helping with that."
And while initially the inmates were far from enthusiastic about having cats around, Kramer now jokes about their reaction if he threatens to take the cats away. In a nutshell, they don’t want to hear anything of the kind. They adore the kitties and love taking care of them. So it’s a win-win situation for both the inmates and the cats that may have ended up being euthanized.
Kramer said, "They are just loved and are going to be taken care of, they've got a soft bed and toys and they couldn't have it any better."
I found this story, which beautifully illustrates the diverse ways in which animals contribute to people’s lives, both heartwarming and delightful. What do you think? Share your opinion in a comment.
Read more about therapy cats at http://www.mhcca.org/corrections-therapies-for-disabled-prisoners.html.