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Pets for prisoners plan

PRISONERS ARE being lined up to keep pets to cut down on suicides in the UK’s jails.
Experts believe that allowing prisoners to look after dogs, cats and other pets will stop depressed inmates killing themselves at the rate of two a week.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Stephen Shaw said: ‘It is not just relationships with other human beings that are fractured when you go to jail. The intensity of our attachment to animals can mean losing touch with them is almost as hurtful as losing touch with family.’

Mr Shaw writes in the prisoners' magazine, Inside Time: ‘Having a pet to look after and train has a genuinely therapeutic effect.’

Mr Shaw, who investigates prison deaths, cites pet projects working in US jails. He added: ‘America claims remarkable results for a programme linking problem youths with problem dogs.’
Studies from the US show that pets for carefully selected long-term prisoners helped to ‘reduced violence, drug abuse and even suicide’.

Maureen Hennis, chief of the charity Pets as Therapy welcomed the idea and commented: ‘The benefits animals can bring are huge. Just stroking a dog in prison would bring down stress levels and reduce the suicide rate.’

But Norman Brennan of the Victims of Crime Trust took a dim view of the suggestion and said: ‘This is nonsense. When people go to prison they forfeit rights. Allowing them to have cats and dogs makes a mockery of the whole system.’