Horses finding a home at Illinois prison

June 5, 2013

(Photo courtesy of IDOC)

The Vandalia prison in southern Illinois used to be a farm and dairy where the inmates could work. These days instead of milking cows the inmates just mix powdered milk with water. But a new program for retired racehorses is bringing animals back to the picturesque farmland.

Kathleen Mattingly runs vocational programs for the Illinois Department of Corrections and says inmates will be taught how to care for the horses and will also get a certificate. “You know, we’ve got 200 people that showed interest in enrolling in this program just at Vandalia and a wait list of 50 and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure all the students that are eligible will be in this program,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly says 15 inmates will be in the class at a time. She recognizes that’s a small number given that the population of the department is nearly 49,000, but she says they hope to expand the program to include more horses and inmates. She says she hopes they can grow hay on some of the 1,600 acres owned by the prison. Mattingly says the training in caring for horses is in addition to the other opportunities behind bars. For example, she says nearly 5,000 inmates completed college classes in the last year.