Prisoners Foster Kittens, Helping Shelters and Themselves

A prison initiative creates a win for cat shelters, a win for rehabilitating inmates and a win for kittens.

A prison initiative creates a win for cat shelters, a win for rehabilitating inmates and a win for kittens.


Inmates at a Connell, Wash., medium-security prison called Coyote Ridge Corrections Center have worked with dogs for years. Prisoners have trained hundreds of orphaned and stray dogs for Benton-Franklin Humane Society, in a highly-successful program that prepares dogs for adoption. Now, Coyote Ridge is adding tiny kittens to their roster.

Through this initiative, Benton-Franklin gets much-need help caring for motherless kittens, readying them for their future homes; the kittens get round-the-clock care and socialization that would otherwise not be available to them at the shelter; and the inmates earn a sense of accomplishment.

“The kittens need a lot of care; they are able to provide that care. It helps the men; it helps the kittens, win-win. And the adopting public, they get a great kitten,” Benton-Franklin Humane Society’s Operation Manager Elaine Allison told KEPR CBS 19.

Via the new prison program, inmates are on duty 24/7 with their assigned kittens in kitten-hosting cells – providing bottle feedings every two hours, and caring for the wee ones in every sense of the word. Without the dedication of participating prisoners, they would likely not survive.

James Guthrie is one such inmate. Residing at Coyote Ridge for the past three years, Guthrie now spends most of his time tucked away in his cell alongside five kittens who he is more than happy to mother.

“It’s like having a pet in prison,” said Guthrie. “I come from a farm, I have helped raise baby calves, and you got to bottle feed them. I think, you know, they deserve a chance just like everything else. It gives you a sense of accomplishment you know to see them go from just a little baby that’s got to drink out of a bottle to now they are playing they are eating solid food.”

Currently, the program is on its second batch of kittens – having seen both a favorable return of highly-sociable cats ready for adoption, and a positive change in the outlook and drive of inmates after the first go round. With such promising results to speak of, the plan is to expand the program into more cells in the very near future.

“Big men just turn into goo when it comes to kitties,” said Allen Root, a participating inmate.
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