Pigeons, Prisoners and Prison Policies
Date:  03-04-2015

How pigeons and people behind bars developed a forbidden bond
Although Reentry Central almost often posts articles of a serious nature, sometimes we come across a story that is not so hard- hitting. Such was the case when we came across a blog that was, no pun intended, for the birds, for the pigeons, as a matter of fact. Prison Rights and Resources/Prison Law Blog recently posted a piece concerning how men at the Petersburg Federal Correctional Institution located in Virginia have taken feral pigeons under their wings, so to speak.

Prisons have rules that prohibit feeding wild animals, or keeping feral (or domesticated) animals as pets. That is why sanctioned programs that entail caring for guide dogs, horses or other non-humans, are wildly popular to those serving time. But, sometimes a non-sanctioned care and rescue effort pops up in a corrections setting.

While Reentry Central does not advocate that those in prison break any rules, at least one staff member is known for her love of animals and birds, and the blog in question brought back fond memories of feeding crows, and zealously guarding a baby crow that fell from its nest, as well as tending to a carrier pigeon that seemed to be thrown off course. Animals, birds and assorted creatures can become welcome “friends” when one is locked up. Being able to be “soft” and gentle toward a living entity without being mocked or hurt is a welcome relief in a harsh environment such as prison.

The blog is indicative that behind their federal registration numbers and rap sheets, some people incarcerated at FCI Petersburg are caring human beings. Pigeons, like prisoners, are often maligned and discredited, so perhaps there is a certain trust at Petersburg between two species that share ostracism by society.

There is something heartwarming about the tender way the men in prison care for the birds, and spend their hard-earned money on relatively expensive food items to feed them. Although the men of the self-named Pigeon Project at FCI Petersburg will probably never gain the recognition or the expertise of the the famous Bird Man Of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud, they do not seek such attention. As a matter of fact, they would like to keep their ornithological undertakings under wraps, lest it jeopardizes their feathered friends. But they do ask that those on the outside of prison falls be kind to pigeons and other non-human creatures.

To read more about the Petersburg Pigeon Project click here.