Putnamville prison program rehabilitates men, horses

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana’s new first lady recently got to see how one of her longtime passions is getting a very different use in the Indiana prison system.

Janet Holcomb grew up with horses, riding and showing the graceful animals for several years.

“Caring for animals does something for your soul — particularly horses. They are so beautiful and such majestic creatures,” she explained.

This month, she took a tour of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation facility in Putnamville, just down the road from the Putnamville Correctional Facility. The program allows trusted inmates to leave the prison for several hours a day to care for the horses and barn.

“Being around a horse, you need to keep your energy level very calm,” Holcomb explained. “It helps the horse relax and be comfortable and trust you as a handler, and I think that’s really a positive experience for these inmates.”

Now in its 10th year in Putnamville, TRF has many locations around the country. Leaders say 35 men have participated locally, with many earning certification as an “elite groom.” To that end, the current inmates in the program hope that state lawmakers will consider changing state laws that forbid people with felony convictions from working at the state’s horse tracks.

It remains to be seen if the first lady will be an ally in that particular request, but she was clearly enthusiastic about the program’s goals during her visit. She had high praise for the facilities and the goals of the program.

“Caring for the animals is a rehabilitation in and of itself,” she said.

To hear from the inmates who are currently in the program, watch the video above.

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