Racehorses teach New York inmates unexpected lessons 30 years on
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 02:16
June 18 - A pioneering prison rehabilitation program that created a retirement farm for racehorses marks 30 years of creating 'second chances' for inmates and thoroughbreds. Sharon Reich reports.
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When retired racehorses first arrived at Wallkill Correctional Facility, Jim Tremper expected to teach horsemanship skills to inmates who would be looking for jobs when they were freed.
Three decades later, the horse program hasn't worked out as intended, but Tremper, the farm manager, as well as prison authorities and inmates are pleased with the results.
The program called Second Chances teaches horse grooming and feeding. And while few released inmates have taken jobs with horses, its lessons in empathy and overcoming anger have proven far more valuable.
SOUNDBITE: Jim Tremper, Second Chances program Director at Wallkill Correctional Facility, saying (English):
"The horses read body language better than any other animal and they see these guys, these hardened guys, that are all in to themselves and they think that they're all either important or the world owes them a living and the horses change all of that."
This week the program marks its 30th anniversary. Since it began at Walkill, it has expanded to prisons in nine other states.
47-year-old Scott Coyle is serving time for heroin possession. He says
being around the horses has changed him.
SOUNDBITE: Scott Coyle, Wallkill Correctional facility inmate saying (English):
"Working with these guys, you learn patience. You learn to slow things down and to appreciate. And the main thing is the unconditional love for them."
Some 400 horses and 400 inmates have gone through the program, which relies on donations.
Many of the 45 thoroughbreds now at Wallkill arrived malnourished or badly injured. After being retired from racing, they were sent by their owners or rescued from abuse.
John Cook, who is serving time for cocaine posession, says some of the horses arrived as bruised as some of the inmates.
SOUNDBITE: John Cook,Wallkill Correctional facility inmate saying (English):
"It's been a treat to me. In other words, being inside dealing with different types of attitudes and coming out here and able to relax and not able to be intense, or anything else like that."
And it seems that they too have helped some of these men, giving them a real second chance.
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