In Monroe County, Florida, an animal sanctuary has been successfully implemented within the walls of Stock Island Detention Centre.
The program, set up in 1994, started as a way to protect the local duck population from a nearby highway. Initially just a new fence and a man-made lake, the plan was to create a peaceful rest area for the prison guards, that also doubled as a sanctuary for the ducks.
The idea soon gained traction around the country and soon enough, more abandoned animals were being surrendered to the sanctuary, which saw the small farm expanded into a much larger reform program for the inmates.
Today, the farm cares for more than 150 animals – of all shapes and sizes.
“We have a sloth, a lemur, lots of exotic snakes and lizards,” Jeanne Selander, the farm supervisor, told ABC News. “They’re abandoned, abused, confiscated or donated.”
According to Selender, the project is beneficial not only for the abandoned animals, but for the inmates as well. “The inmates work on the farm and help me with all the duties involved with taking care of animals.”
“It helps them learn compassion and to be productive,” she said.
The farm, which is operated solely on the generosity of community donations, is open to the public two times a month – to help raise awareness of how to treat and care for animals.
For the inmates, the program offers an escape from the monotony and mental turmoil of prison life – assisting with rehabilitation and reducing the likelihood of inmates re-offending. Violent offenders, or anyone who has a history of child or animal abuse is not eligible for the program.
Photographer Kim Raff decided to visit the prison after she heard about the positive effect the project was having on the inmates.
“I think people are starting to take a look deeper into how we’re rehabilitating people,” she said. “I was really happy to be able to do a story about something that’s working, that’s a positive thing that’s good for the community, good for the people, good for the inmates, good for the animals,” she told PBS.
“For the most part, it’s very good for them. Instead of sitting upstairs in a cell, they’re actually doing something productive and something that gives them some meaning and some purpose,” she said. “They often will get out and bring their families back to show them what they did.”
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