Ink Out Loud: A sense of purpose from the inside |

Ink Out Loud: A sense of purpose from the inside

Where I lived last the jail was adjacent to the animal shelter. Some good-behavior inmates were allowed to volunteer next door — walking the dogs and playing with the cats. It was the highlight of the day for all the incarcerated involved. Canines and convicts — felines and felons — have forged bonds across the country with the advent of various programs.

Unwanted people and animals are often unruly and in need of compassion, care and structure. Enter a Washington state foster care project for cats.

The Silver Star Unit at Larch Corrections Center partnered with the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, where inmates socialize cats and ready them for adoption.

While the cats are being fostered they are also helping to foster a sense of responsibility and compassion for incarcerated people.

Two eligible inmates receive a cat to care for, feed and comfort. Once the cat’s behavioral issues are adequately addressed, it will be eligible for adoption.

Inmates benefit from the pride of completion of a successful project that involves the betterment of another living being.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections Paws in Prison (ADCPP) program has dramatically increased the number of shelter dogs adopted.

“The impact of similar programs throughout the United States is universally positive. Inmates learn training skills that support their own successful rehabilitation and re-entry into society. Morale of both inmates and prison staff is greatly enhanced in participating facilities. Adoptable dogs otherwise left to languish or be euthanized in shelters due to a lack of socialization or training receive a second chance for a good life,” according to ADCPP.

For an inmate to be eligible, he/she is required to have a history of good behavior with the department of corrections and can have no violent crimes or animal abuse in his/her history.

While most of the programs across the country seek to ready both inmates and animals for life on the outside there’s one here in California, that gives inmates who will likely never leave the confines of prison, a real life-saving purpose.

Karma Rescue, a nonprofit organization that saves at-risk dogs from high-kill shelters, partnered with the California State Prison in Los Angeles County to match dogs with inmates. Prisoners, many who are serving life sentences, can give back to society by training the dogs and thus making them eligible for adoption on the outside.

With few exceptions, most puppies, kittens and even people are born pure and good. True, some are born mad. Some go mad over time. Some succumb to environmental pressures and become something they never meant or wanted to be. I believe we should never deprive living beings of hope. It may be all they have.

Mandy Feder is the Managing Editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She can be reached at or by phone at 530-542-8006.

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