Larch Corrections Center, a minimum-custody prison near Vancouver, Wa., has assigned two shelter cats to each live with a pair of inmates in the hope that the relationships will result in better behavior — in both the felons and the cats, says the Seattle Times. For years, corrections agencies across the nation have allowed inmates to interact with animals to teach them responsibility and compassion, two things in rare supply in most prison cells.
In Washington, programs have connected inmates with a menagerie of animals — from honeybees to tadpoles, dogs to butterflies, and now, for the first time, cats. Eleven of the state’s 12 prisons have some type of program involving inmate interaction with animals. It will become 12 for 12 this month when inmates at Airway Heights Corrections Center, near Spokane, start training dogs. Prison director Dan Pacholke believes having inmates work with animals makes “the environment of prisons less tense and less violent.” Working with animals “instills empathy, compassion and responsibility” in the offenders, he said. “They’re getting [animals] that are castaways. That irony isn’t lost on the inmates. They’re encouraged by the success.”