October 19, 2020, Indianapolis Star (A leading newspaper of Indianapolis)
Cats are unable to distinguish between street clothes and prison uniforms – and that’s exactly what makes the relationship between the men at Pendleton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison outside of Indianapolis, and the cats that live there, so special.
For six hours a day, seven days a week, a handful of men receive unqualified love from the more than 20 cats that live in the prison as part of the FORWARD program, or Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication.
In exchange for care and a place to stay before being adopted, the cats at Pendleton offer inmates untampered, non-judgemental affection. Through the 5-year-old program, a select few incarcerated men are paid 20 cents an hour to spend their days caring for abandoned and abused cats, preparing them for adoption. Or, as some inmates will say, for a reason to get up in the morning.
In partnership with the Animal Protection League of Indiana, the program removes cats from a traditional shelter and places them in the prison’s “cat sanctuary,” a wide-open room with scratching posts, climbing structures and nooks to hide in. The program houses them with incarcerated caregivers, who, incidentally, gain skills such as empathy, responsibility and self-esteem. The caregivers spend their days cleaning the cat sanctuary, changing litter boxes, and feeding and giving.