Rehabilitating Prisoners Apply Learned Skills To Animals

Turn-about is fair play. There’s a correctional facility in Sydney, Australia that’s put a fresh new twist on rehabilitation. Switching the focus from prisoner to animals is a scheme developed by the John Morony Correctional Complex where inmates are responsible for the care of abandoned and/or injured creatures, both large and small.

Prisoners as Nurses

Australian internees are caring for animals that have been abandoned by owners, attacked by predators or hit by cars.

Kangaroos, emus, wombats, snakes and cockatoos are just a few of the native wildlife being nursed back to health by inmates at a wildlife center that’s been added to the Marony facility.

Prison officials indicated that this type of program builds a sense of responsibility and develops life skills for offenders who are rehabilitating. This innovative approach actually prepares them for the time when they will be free to rejoin society. So, it's a win-win for both parties.

“Animals show love and respect unconditionally, they don’t judge, so over time the inmates form relationships with the animals,” the wildlife center’s senior officer Ian Mitchell said. “It is a real positive impact and the animals can actually sometimes help people heal.”

The Process

Selected prisoners are assigned to a specific enclosure and are required to feed and build shelters for the animals, while being taught how to care for their injuries and special conditions.

During the process, it’s determined that some of animals need to remain within the facility, because releasing them to the wild might just return them to an environment where they would become vulnerable once again.

However, the majority are released after rehabilitation, or are found ‘forever homes’ by the local rescue organizations who initially brought them to the facility.

Addicted Python

One of the more unusual cases involved an endangered python. The snake had become addicted to methamphetamine by criminals who were holding him basically as a weapon against the local authorities. It had absorbed the narcotic through its skin while it was held captive, after having been seized during a police raid.

So, it became the responsibility of the inmates to provide drug treatments, similar to how addicts are detoxed for their addictions.

Animal Care Certification

The wildlife center also has a close relationship with the local technical college, and inmates who participate in the program for at least 12 months have the opportunity to gain certified qualifications in animal care.

Several inmates who have worked at the wildlife center have gone on to work with animals "on the outside" and the senior caretakers have similar aspirations. It's a win-win, all the way around.

Primary Source: John Morony Correctional Complex