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Inmates befriend new jail program
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Jail inmate Jennifer Wright cares for some of the cats at Warren County Animal Control on Tuesday.
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Jail inmates Jennifer Woodlee, left, and Shelby Johnson spread gravel outside Warren County Animal Control on Tuesday as part of ground maintenance.

A partnership between Warren County Sheriff’s Department and Warren County Animal Control and Adoption Center to better the lives of animals is off to a tail-wagging start.

Jail trustees – inmates who are trusted with performing certain jobs inside the jail and on the grounds – are being allowed to work at Animal Control helping staff care for animals. The program uses female inmates only.

“Those were the greatest four workers I’ve ever had,” said Animal Control director Kim Pettrey of the four trustees who worked the first day. “They thanked me over and over for allowing them to come. They enjoyed helping us and caring for the animals. It was wonderful to have them here helping us out.”

The feeling is mutual as the inmates expressed their enjoyment with working at Animal Control.

“I love being around animals and this has definitely been a great experience,” said inmate Jennifer Woodlee, who just had her first grandchild born Monday.

“You miss a lot being in here,” said Woodlee of her jail time. “I’m ready to get home to my family.”

Added inmate Shelby Johnson, “It certainly makes the day go faster and it makes you feel better knowing you’re doing something.”

Pettrey and her full-time employee underwent training on the dos and don’ts for the inmates. Along with no access to medication, trustees are not allowed to interact with the public and can only be present when the facility is closed.

Having jail trustees work at Animal Control is a pilot program, an experimental trial on a small scale to determine if activities like this might work. If the effort continues to be successful, consideration will be made to other trustee programs.

Pettrey says this experimental trial is extremely important.

“We’ve had a discussion with the ladies and we impressed upon them the importance of them not doing anything to endanger this program,” said Pettrey. “This is a pilot program, a study to see how things go. They understand if they mess this up, they are messing it up for everyone and probably for other programs that might follow this one. This isn’t just isn’t about them.”

Jail trustees are used to landscape and clean the grounds around Warren County Courthouse. However, this is the first partnership outside the judicial system.