The Prison Zoo

In the Florida Keys, abandoned animals have found an unlikely refuge – a prison.

For the past two decades, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Stock Island Detention Center has been a safe haven for abandoned, abused, confiscated, and donated animals from all over the country.

This “prison zoo” began in 2000, when a flock of ducks, dodging traffic on the busy road in front of the jail, were relocated on the grounds and
a pond was put in.

As word spread, so did the number of animals. By 2020, the prison was home to a hundred and fifty animals, including snakes, lizards, alpacas, pot-bellied pigs, goats, parrots, miniature horses, sea turtles, and even sloths.

Non-violent inmates can get the coveted position to care for and feed the animals through a work program, providing a respite from the daily challenges of prison life.

The zoo does not run on the taxpayer’s dime. It is completely funded from donations. Twice monthly, the public is invited to visit the animals during open houses, which attract hundreds of visitors.

Through this unusual program, unwanted animals are given a new home while inmates are given a new purpose.

Each, bringing hope and healing to the other.