To relieve tensions and help with the process of inmate rehabilitation, Sheriff Jerome Kramer of Lincoln County, Nebraska has taken an outside-the-box approach: The sheriff has enlisted the services of Nemo and Sarge -- a couple of cats.
Inspired by the inmates' recent volunteer efforts at a local animal shelter, Sheriff Kramer adopted the two cats, placing one in the work-release cell block and the other in the minimum security area.
"We got their mug shots and put them in a couple of the cells where we thought they'd be better received. We have a list of cat rules that's been laminated and put in the cells to let them know the basic care of the cat — clean the litter every day — and they're waiting in line to take care of the cat," said Sheriff Kramer.
For Nemo and Sarge, the tables have turned. Instead of being visited by humans from the inside of a kennel cage, they are the visitors. And since the adoption, Nemo and Sarge have received only love, from inmates and correction officers alike. Inmate Guy Meyers claims the cat "brings out the soft part, like your kids do."
The paws-on approach by Sheriff Kramer has resulted in a decreased amount of destructive behavior amongst inmates who take turns playing, grooming and cleaning after the cats.
"The studies show that it will help relieve stress just because it's somthing to do and something to occupy their time," Sheriff Kramer said.
But the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department experiment has done far more that just relieve stress; it has also enhanced the inmates' quality of living. The cats don’t see the inmates as criminals on their good behavior, or as people with a past, for that matter; their minds do not judge these men. In their eyes, they see only a loving home, and those in the home who welcome them.
"They'll have a really good life here, you know, it's a good deal for the cats," said Sheriff Kramer.