Cats living in jail to help Boone County inmates

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BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (Feb. 11, 2016)- Some rescue cats are finding a new home behind bars.

A program called "Cuffs and Collars" at the Boone County Jail is allowing inmates to foster cats. Sabrina, Little Liberty, Big Chevy and Peaches are in the care of four inmates.

“These guys all looked super tough when we first showed up then you let the cats out of the kennels and they were like awwww,” said Michelle Atkinson with the Boone County Humane Society.

Similar to the rescued cats, Aaron McNutt admits he too has been in rough situations. The 23-year-old man is serving time on drug related charges.

“Needless to say this isn’t what I tried to turn to- I don’t try to turn to jail,” said Aaron McNutt, an inmate at the Boone County Jail.

The cats are able to roam from cell to cell in a designated block. In just the past week, the inmates and the cats have already formed a companionship.

“It brings the anxiety level down on those inmates and we have better inmates. We have inmates that are more controlled, that keep their temper better than what they ever had,” said Sheriff Mike Nielsen, with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Only non-violent offenders are allowed to volunteer for the program.

“We have good inmates here and we have bad inmates here and some of those bad inmates would not make good socialization with the pets,” said Sheriff Nielsen.

The inmates are responsible for fostering the cats until they are adopted which is a big help for the humane society.

“So having four cats here opens four foster homes, so it’s huge. Four doesn’t seem like a big number but it’s huge for us when we only have two or three foster families,” said Atkinson.

McNutt told us he never considered himself a cat person, until now.

“Out of all the bad things I might have done to earn myself the spot in this jail this is definitely something that helps me clear my conscience” said McNutt.

The Boone County Sheriff believes no other jail in the state of Indiana has a program like this. The next step is possibly allowing inmates to bottle feed kittens this spring. There is also talk of inmates fostering dogs later on this year.

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