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Prisoners at one of Britain’s worst jails get a PETTING ZOO so they can de-stress by stroking gerbils and bunny rabbits

By April 16, 2021 No Comments

A prison has built a petting zoo to help keep inmates to de-stress by stroking gerbils and bunny rabbits.

Prisoners at HMP Hindley, a category C jail near Wigan which holds just under 600 inmates, can book sessions with the animals to help with stress. The prison has previously been named as among the worst in the UK in a watchdog report, with violence and drug-taking found to be a regular occurrence. The jail is ‘one of the worst and possibly one of the very worst that inspectors had ever seen in this type of prison,’ the inspection concluded at the time.

A report out by Charlie Taylor, the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, has praised the jail for coming up with ‘imaginative initiatives’. Although the report does not reveal the exact breeds of the small animals in the petting zoo, they normally include rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits. The report states: ‘The chaplaincy had launched some imaginative initiatives. ‘For example, it has created an outside garden area with small animals, which prisoners could visit to escape the stresses of the time.’

Petting zoos are known to help relax people, with the animals said to be ‘calming, therapeutic’ and have the ability to reduce stress. Experts says that research has shown that playing with animals increases the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin – as well as reducing the stress-inducing hormone cortisol. Petting animals can also help emotional well-being, as well as promoting responsibility, empathy, respect and compassion.

The report also stated that there was also a ‘polytunnel, where they (prisoners) could grow plants’. The recent report found that a massive 59 per cent of prisoners tested were positive for drugs, which was ‘very high’ – with rates among prisoners at other jails more likely to hover at between 5-20 per cent. It stated: ‘A range of intelligence and other data indicated that there was a problem with prisoners accessing drugs in the prison and a lack of capacity to reduce the demand.

‘Mandatory drug testing had been reinstated shortly before our inspection and yielded a positive rate of 59 per cent in the first month, which was very high. ‘In our survey 25 per cent of prisoners said that it was easy to get drugs. 

*’The prison should adopt an integrated, strategic approach to the prison’s drug problem, establish what the key operational priorities are to reduce the supply and demand for drugs and implement appropriate action.’*



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