Friday, May 4, 2012

Cuddling or Coddling?

Photo courtesy Rick Bowmer for the Associated Press.
An interesting little story in yesterday's Chron describes a jail in Washington State in which inmates are entrusted with the care of cats. 

Contreras and his cellmate, after passing the screening process, are two of the four inmates in the "Cuddly Catz" program at Larch Correctional Facility in Yacolt. "

Nobody was wanting to adopt her," Contreras said. "We got her and it's been awesome ever since." 

It wasn't awesome at the outset. She came as advertised, Contreras said — moody, dysfunctional and prone to violence. But the changes in his newest cellmate are evident. 

 She can now be petted, brushed and even held for a few minutes. She still growls but rarely hisses. She has a scratching post and perch that takes up a healthy chunk of the 12 foot-by-10 foot cell. Contreras and his cellmate care for her in shifts. 

The debate about evidence-based programming in prison is heated because programs require resources, but this seems to be a fairly cheap program to administer. All it takes is cat food, litter boxes, and the occasional vet visit; not an insurmountable expense. This could be something to think about in California, too, post-realignment.

The comments on the article seem fairly benign so far, but I can imagine some readers thinking that allowing inmates to keep pets is unnecessary coddling. What do you think?


Julie Tackett said...

My loved one is incarcerated in WA DOC at a mental health facility which has a kitten program in his unit.

This is an excellent program because kittens are powerful behavioral motivators. His desire to participate in the kitten program has been a key tool in helping him resist self-harming urges -- he must have one year without incident in order to be considered for a kitten "permit".

The state benefits in our situation because the medical expense for my loved one's last self-harming incident was $40,000.00 (outside hospital trauma care, etc). Since he decided he would like to participate in the kitten program there have been no incidents, a tremendous financial savings to the state not to mention lessening the emotional stress on his family.

In this particular program, feral kittens are brought in by an outside volunteer organization to be socialized or if too young to be adopted out, cared for until such time as they are ready for adoption.

This volunteer service brings the kittens, carriers, food, litter, etc.

A kitten is assigned to an inmate and lives in his cell. Each day at "kitten socialization" all the kittens are brought into a room to play and any inmate in the unit may come in to cuddle and play with them. Once the kittens are old enough and tame enough, the outside volunteers reclaim the kittens which are then adopted out. The men tell me it is hard to let a kitten go, but another soon follows.

This is a win/win/win situation at virtually no cost to the state.... kittens are fostered by inmates and get adopted, the men are happy and the state benefits when inmates are infraction and/or self-harm free.

LightRanger said...

I think it's a fantastic idea. Reminds me of some of the gardening rehab programs I've read about. Similar therapeutic and humanizing effect.

Colin said...

Doh. ^^^ That comment was from my old blogger account. :-)