Tradition Animal Welfare
Inmates, abused animals learn trust,
love in program
Progressive Animal Welfare
NINA LONG / STAFF
''I've always had a soft spot in my heart for animals,'' says
Lajuane Crenshaw at the Metro Animal Services.
By SHEILA BURKE
Staff WriterA Metro jail program that allows some inmates to
care for neglected and abused animals is showing early signs of
success, the Davidson County sheriff's office said.
The Time to Paws program gives inmates some of whom are jailed on
charges of domestic violence the chance to care for animals that
have been beaten, starved or neglected by their owners.
In turn, officials say, the inmates learn compassion and
responsibility and receive a constructive outlet for their energy.
The program, a year old this month, also is having a positive if
early effect on the inmates' recidivism rate, officials said.
''I hate to say it: This time being incarcerated has really changed
my life,'' said Chuck Davis, a program participant who was jailed
for threatening his wife. Davis said he had been repeatedly arrested
for drunken driving. He said the program ''takes being incarcerated
out of my mind'' and that he would like to adopt some of the animals
when he is released from jail.
Inmates at the Correctional Work Center, a minimum-security jail in
south Nashville, work with animals at Metro Animal Services, which
is near the center.
Four days a week, inmates go to the shelter to clean the cages of
dogs, cats and other would-be pets, feeding them and teaching some
of the most frightened ones to once again trust humans.
Becky Levy, program monitor for Time to Paws, said inmates with a
history of domestic abuse particularly learn from their wards.
''They raise their hands, and they see an animal cowering in a cage,
and I say, 'That's how your family feels around you,' '' Levy said.
The program also teaches the inmates, many of whom have never been
shown love, a chance to learn how to give and receive affection, she
said. ''When they come down here, they let their guard down,'' Levy
said. ''I see the big guys crying.''
The program has been a real benefit to the animals as well, said
Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, who conceived the program based
on working six months in an Australian jail that put animals in
''We've seen the animals learn to trust and have comfort with people
in the world,'' Hall said.
Not all of the participants in Time to Paws are domestic abusers.
Most have gone through jail programs such as the Sheriff's
Anti-Violence Effort (SAVE) for domestic abusers and New Avenues, a
state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment program.
Many of the participants have not been rearrested in Metro. Hall
said it was too early to tell whether the declining recidivism rate
would hold up over time. In the last year, 56 minimum-security
inmates have gone through the program, and nine of them have been
rearrested in Davidson County, the sheriff's office said. There has
never been an escape.
The recidivism rate for inmates who have gone through SAVE is 44%
and 50% for New Avenues, the alcohol and drug treatment program,
said sheriff's office spokeswoman Karla Crocker. The recidivism rate
nationally is 65%, she said.
The benefits go beyond staying out of jail, Hall said. Inmates who
care for animals tend to behave better while they are in the jail.
''It costs money if we have to fight and wrestle with these guys in
the jail,'' Hall said.
The inmates have nurtured dogs, cats, snakes, a goat and a horse,
among other animals, and they're caring for an emu caged outside
behind Metro Animal Services' Harding Place facility. They unload
hundreds of pounds of pet food, walk dogs and keep the animals
clean. They could be seen cradling the creatures and giggling and
cooing at them last week.
''I've always had a soft place in my heart for animals,'' said
Lajuane Crenshaw, who said he was in the jail on a drug-related
Shelter officials say that by getting some animals to love people
again, the inmates could reduce the number of animals that are
destroyed each year because they are not adopted.
Director of Metro Animal Services Judy Ladebauche said, ''The more
socialized the animals are, the more adoptable they are. So we're
really excited, and we expect it to continue and grow.''
Adoptions at Metro Animal Services have gone up 728% since 1999, she