Some minimum-security prison inmates are preparing to head to the race track – to ask for a job. A new addition to the Illinois Department of Corrections' vocational offerings is “Second Chance Ranch.” It's a grant-funded program on 50 acres of the Vandalia Correctional Center grounds. Participants learn how to build fences, maintain barns, and take care of horses.
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“We knew that if we could teach them hands-on skills … learn to love a horse and have a horse depend on them, it would be really meaningful,” says Kathy Mattingly, vocational coordinator for the Illinois Department of Corrections. Eight horses are at the ranch now, but Mattingly says the number will eventually grow to 40. And it’s a second chance for them, too; they are retired racehorses or horses otherwise unwanted by their previous owners. The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association are participating with the Department of Corrections in the program. Mattingly says inmates whose crimes physically harmed people or animals will not be accepted into the program.