The governor of a prison in Kent has defended an NHS-funded scheme that sees 'high risk' inmates playing with goats.
Category B HMP Swaleside faced criticism for using taxpayer money to fund a small farm at the jail, which includes nine chickens, two ducks, two goats and a beehive.
Men at the jail are encouraged to feed and care for the animals in an effort to teach them how to be responsible for others, as well as grow their own produce.
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Staff at the jail have defended the scheme, and said the upkeep of the two pygmy goats "doesn't cost a lot" at around £300, following criticism from Harry Fone from the Taxpayers' Alliance, who called it a "waste of taxpayers' cash".
Prison governor, Mark Icke, said: "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.
“Having an active work schedule is a robust predictor of positive mental health and well being which is an important outcome for men within our services.”
'A step too far'
Goats. Image: Getty
In light of the confirmed costs of the goats at HMP Swaleside, Mr Fone maintained the initiative was "a step too far".
"Helping with inmates' skills once they leave prison makes sense, but this does seem to be a step too far," he saod.
"Whilst the amount does seem small, I worry that this is the thin end of the wedge and that examples of silly spending like this are all too common in the prison system."