At Nevers detention center, a dog helps fragile prisoners

In the small triangular courtyard, a man places hangers on the ground and then approachesAnger, a malamute as impressive as it is friendly. He guides her from circle to circle, and sometimes he rewards her with a kibble. For an hour and a half he will make her work, take care of her, also cuddle her under the watchful eye of Michaël Kitaievitch, veterinarian in Alligny-en-Morvan.

This “patient” like no other is detained in Nevers detention center and attends these sessions on a proposal from the psychological cell that accompanies him. “It gives me peace of mind, it calms me down. It allows me to escape, in quotation marks. This ‘parenthesis in the prison environment,’ as he describes it, is a novelty in Nevers, after being tested in many other institutions.

It gives me peace of mind, it calms me down. It allows me to escape, in quotes.

“Animal mediation aims to reduce aggression and behavioral problems,” explains Pascale Vallet, prison counselor for integration and probation, at the origins of the project. For the supervisors, after already nine sessions, one could also feel the effects on the communication.

‘An inmate was very closed. As soon as the first session was over, he started talking to me a lot. It created a catchy subject and broke his defensive stance, ”says one of them. “It’s true that I have never spoken,” he explains. “After each session, I feel good. I love animals and I could make her work all day. So I look forward to each new session.”

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Another vulnerable inmate also found solace there. “There is an complicity that is created with Anger. I’m happy because her master once said to me “She does it with you, but not with me”. I was already asking if I could see her again after my release. »

“The goal is to disconnect prisoners from prison to reconnect with their emotions. It should be experienced as a moment of enjoyment.”

Michael Kitayevich (zooterapeut)

For Michaël Kitaievich, practicing in prison was also a discovery, experienced without too much anxiety. “It’s always special, but I got a good welcome. Anger also quickly took its tracks. You have to be careful, because these dogs are emotional fungi, which is why I take breaks of about twenty minutes between two sessions. »

With each arrest, the animal therapist gradually withdraws, to let the relationship settle with the animal. ‘Then it makes them talk and talk to me. I do not know why they are there, some say to me. But the goal is to disconnect them from prison to reconnect them with their emotions. It must be experienced as a moment of enjoyment. »

When a prisoner undergoing heavy psychiatric treatment after his first session explains that “it is better than medicine”, it means that the goal seems to have been reached. It is now up to the prison administration to find funds to continue these sessions, the last of which is scheduled for July 1st.

Vincent Darbeau

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