What Can a Bird Teach a Prisoner?
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN SOUTH AFRICA
ACCORDING to the Sunday Tribune of Durban, South Africa, birds are playing a role in softening the hearts of inmates at Pollsmoor Prison. Currently 14 convicts are participating in a program that involves taking care of cockatiels and lovebirds in their cells.
How does the program work? Each participating inmate has a makeshift incubator in his cell. A hatchling is put in the care of the prisoner, who hand-feeds the helpless little creature every hour or two, day and night, for about five weeks. Then the bird is placed in a cage, which is also kept in the cell. When the bird is grown, it is sold to the public. Some inmates become so attached to their birds that they cry when the inevitable parting takes place.
Even some hardened criminals have become noticeably more tender and gentle after speaking to and caring for the birds daily. One inmate said: “I tame the birds, but they have tamed me too.” Another says that the birds taught him patience and self-control. A convicted thief says that caring for a bird made him realize that being a parent “is a big responsibility”—something he neglected with his own children when he was free.
Caring for these birds has another benefit for inmates. “With the skills they learn here,” says Wikus Gresse, who conceived the program, “they can get a job outside with bird breeders or a vet.”