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Grand opening of Second Chance Ranch Equine Training Program held at Vandalia Correctional Center

VANDALIA - June 5, 2013 - A Grand Opening ceremony was held today to recognize the commencement of the Second Chance Ranch Equine Training Program at Vandalia Correctional Center. The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has partnered with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) to provide the Equine Training Program at Vandalia Correctional Center.

The cost-neutral program will encompass 50 acres of land at Vandalia Correctional Center and will provide rehabilitation to retired race horses while giving inmates job skills and vocational training necessary to certify them in jobs in the equine industry or at any racetrack, especially in Illinois. Such better prospects for employment will help tremendously in their successful reentry into society.

“It is proven that recidivism is greatly reduced when offenders are able to learn job skills and obtain employment upon their release,” said IDOC Director Tony Godinez.

Godinez added, “This program, which comes at no cost to taxpayers, is dually beneficial. It provides retraining to retired racehorses while also giving inmates the opportunity to learn job skills in horse care and stable management that will assist them in gaining employment post-incarceration. The program’s strength is about people working together--every step of the way--to bring about change and achieve positive results.”

Inmates will receive instruction in nutrition, equine physiology and horse anatomy, in addition to daily hands-on training in the care and maintenance of horses. Those who successfully complete the program will earn a certificate in equine care and barn/farm maintenance and management. Significantly, the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (IHPBA) has agreed to conduct interviews for job opportunities with inmates who graduate from the program, upon their release.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be one of only nine facilities across the nation taking part in this unique program, said IDOC Chief of Programs and Support Services Debbie Denning. “We have seen the impact this program has made on inmates in other states and believe this is truly a life changing curriculum. We want to thank the TRF and the IHPBA for their contributions and commitment to this program and our inmates.”

The program is the first of its kind in the state and is being offered free of charge to the department. All supplies and needs--such as hay, feed, fencing and veterinary care--will be paid for by the TRF and the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Career to Education Grant funding is being used for instructor and classroom materials.

TRF is an equine sanctuary devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation and retraining of thoroughbred racehorses no longer able to compete on the track. As part of its mission, TRF has teamed with correctional systems across the country to create “retraining farms.” The retraining farms prepare horses for adoption as riding and companion horses, while allowing inmates to build life skills and receive vocational training by providing supervised care to the animals.

IDOC is committed to operating a safe and secure prison system as well as enhancing prison-based treatment, prevention programs, reducing recidivism and the successful reentry of inmates into society.