Inmates caring for cats in rehab program at Pendleton prison

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PENDLETON, Ind. – Offenders at the Pendleton Correctional Facility are serving as caretakers for shelter cats.

Since 2015, Pendleton Correctional has been operating the Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication (F.O.R.W.A.R.D) program. The program is part of a partnership with the Animal Protection League.

Currently the inmates, who are behind bars for a variety of crimes including murder, are caring for 27 of the APL’s cats. The hope is that one day the cats will be adopted and given a forever home. However, if they cannot be placed, they will remain at Pendleton Correctional’s cat sanctuary.

“I think I connect with the cats, because this is like their second chance and this is my second chance to do something different, be a different person,” Inmate Johnathon Tipton said.

Program coordinator, Sgt. Jennifer Rinehart, says the program has yielded noticeable benefits for the offenders as well. She adds the daily act of caring for something other than themselves helps rehabilitate the offenders.

In effect the cats get love and care they need, the offenders get the personal development they need, and the Animal Protection League gets some much-needed help.

“I think it helps them to become the type of individuals they need to be to be able to make it in society,” Rinehart said.

The offenders in the program echo Sgt. Rinehart’s sentiments, adding they feel the program has given them a new lease on life.

“I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life, so making a good one, you know helping the animals, it just feels right,” Bryan Harper said.

Each of the cats cared for at Pendleton Correctional Facility is up for adoption.

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