Monroe's convicted killers save lives of abandoned kittens

MONROE, Wash. - Behind the barbed wire at the prison in Monroe, a unique program is saving hundreds of lives - through an unusual pairing of convicts and kittens.

Kris Howe, who is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, is one of several inmates selected to raise a kitten in his cell.

"I just try to make the best of what I got," says Kris. "I killed somebody - something I'm not proud of. Wish I never would have done any of my crimes."

Kris Howe is among Monroe's mentally ill offenders, fostering feral kittens for adoption. The program saves the lives of animals that otherwise would be euthanized.

"You work with them and play with them, and eventually they break through wild streaks," Kris says.

The pairing calms more than cats.

The Monroe Corrections Kitten Connections Program partners prisoners with Purrfect Pals rescue agency in Arlington, saving hundreds of kittens.

Travis Cargile, another convicted murderer, also was selected to take part in the program.

"I'm helping an animal that would not have a home and be euthanized - and giving a new chance at life - which is what we look for, a new chance at life," Travis says.

Offenders must meet stringent requirements to care for kittens in their cells. They also must be psychologically stable and follow prison rules.

"I've never had an ambition in life before I knew we could come here and get cats," says Travis.

The prisoners say foster pet parenting builds their self-worth. And it doesn't cost taxpayers a penny.

"It's something positive when there's not a lot of positive things here in prison," says Kris.

Purrfect Pals in Arlington covers all the costs of care, and after spaying or neutering the kittens, puts them up for adoption.

The state prisons at Walla Walla and Stafford Creek are considering duplicating the program.

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