The Bangkwang Prison near Bangkok is steeped with history. It has been in operation since the 1930s and is home to around 700 wild cats. Despite the fact that most humans would want to get out of there as quickly as possible, the cats clearly felt it comfortable enough to call it home.
The jail wardens have attempted for decades to remove the cats off-site, but they keep returning. That’s when they came up with the brilliant idea of making lemonade out of lemons. They came up with a scheme a few years ago that allowed inmates to adopt wild cats from inside the jail.
A noteworthy example is the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. They have been in operation for more than two decades and accommodate around 2300 male convicts. The initiative was created by the prison’s administration in collaboration with Fried’s Animal Shelter.
There have been as many as 75 cats in the program, and each one has its own identification tag. Each convict must go through an application and approval procedure, but once adopted, they will share a cell with the inmate for the duration of their sentence. The convicts buy treats and toys for the cats and create cat furniture for them. When required, they even keep an eye on one other’s cats. The cats will follow their owners around the jail on leashes, although they may be allowed to wander freely in other prisons.
The waiting list and rigorous restrictions connected with the program demonstrate the program’s popularity.
Pam James, the public relations officer of Indiana State Prison, tells mental floss, “To have a cat, the criminal must have a job.” “He buys all of the food and trash with money from his offender trust account.” The cat would accompany them if they were released on parole. However, if they have a conduct record for bad behavior, they must release the cat by sending it home or placing it for adoption. Then they typically have no means of getting the pet back.”
Inmates who own cats are more likely to be on their best behavior in order to stay in the program. When there are cats in the cellblock, there is also less tension between the inmates and the guards.
Between the inmate and the cat, a strong bond develops. One of the inmates at Scotland’s maximum-security HMP Shotts jail said his cat was the first item he had expressed affection for in seven years.
“The criminals treat the animals as though they were their children,” James adds. “It’s relaxing. It’s something that reciprocates their feelings. There is something in the lives of the inmates that provides them with unconditional affection.”
The convicts who look after the cats are allowed to atone for their previous mistreatment of other animals. Bassman also believes that the concept of cats having nine lives is beneficial to inmates on an emotional level.
“A new beginning might be symbolized by a cat,” he explains. “It may be extremely optimistic and beneficial for someone who is jailed to imagine that they can have another life like the cat, that they might be able to’recycle’ themselves.”