NEWS
10/01/2019 10:36 GMT | Updated 10/01/2019 10:37 GMT

Britain's Most Hardened Criminals Are Being Taught Empathy By Two Adorable Goats

A prison governor at HMP Swaleside says they help fight depression and apathy among inmates serving the longest sentences.

Some of the UK’s most hardened criminals are being taught the importance of valuing others – by a pair of goats named Karen and Faye.

The most dangerous prisoners at HMP Swaleside – half of which are serving life sentences for the most serious crimes – are being encouraged to care for a feed the pygmy goats in an NHS-funded scheme.

The move has not been without critics, who have decried it a waste of taxpayers’ cash, but prison bosses have defended the cost and psychological benefits of the caprine residents at the Kent category B prison.

Prison governor Mark Icke said the initiative helped to combat apathy and depression among inmates serving long sentences, and helps them to develop a working routine which they can take with them on release, Kent Online reported.

“It provides a pathway of psychologically-informed services for a highly complex and challenging offender group which is likely to have severe personality disorders and who pose a high risk of harm to others or a high risk of reoffending in a harmful way,” Icke said.

Having an active work schedule is a robust predictor of positive mental healthMark Icke

He added that the goats, which cost £300 from a sanctuary in Essex, “don’t cost a lot to run”, dampening claims made by The Sun last month that the scheme was costing thousands.

Karen and Faye are also joined by two ducks, a beehive, and nine chickens – the newer ones being hatched and raised on prison grounds in its farm and garden area.

“Having an active work schedule is a robust predictor of positive mental health and wellbeing which is an important outcome for men within our services,” Icke added.

One of the prisoners said of the project: “It makes me feel good. I didn’t used to like myself but now I’ve got the whole world ahead of me.”

Prison inspectors are among the “several high-profile visitors” who have praised the project as “innovative”.

HuffPost UK

It comes as David Spencer of the Centre for Crime Prevention told The Sun last month: “It beggars belief that anyone would think this is a reasonable use of resources.

“Category B prisons house serious criminals.

“Does anyone really think that petting a few goats is going to keep them on the straight and narrow?”

In recent years, Swaleside has seen riot police sent in to break up an incident between a small number of prisoners in December 2017, with one inmate needing hospital care following a self-inflicted injury.

A year prior, 60 inmates seized control of part of a wing, lighting fires during the unrest.

NHS England said decisions made about prisoners’ mental healthcare were made by local prisons and health services.