Horse Welfare Trust to play key role in new equine prisoner unit
Plans are afoot to launch a new equine prisoner rehabilitation unit in Castlerea Prison later this year and a south Wicklow animal charity is at the heart of the process.
The Irish Horse Welfare Trust is playing an integral role in the pilot project which is a first for Ireland and the EU and has already raised €100,000 in funding with the help social entrepreneur Jonathan Irwin, founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation.
Sharon Power, CEO of the Irish Horse Welfare Trust (IHWT), is project managing the logistics side of this exciting initiative, which has been undertaken in association with the Irish Turf Club.
'We are very pleased to be involved with the project. Its a progressive initiative that will help both horses and humans. Our online course is already proving to be a valuable learning experience for those those that do it and the prison project will benefit greatly from it too,' Ms Power said.
Also present at a recent project meeting held at IHWT headquarters in Woodenbridge were Fergal Black, Director of Care and Rehabilitation at the Irish Prison Service; Mark McGoldrick, Engineer at the Irish Prison Service and Martin Bolger and Jill Power from IHWT.
The group started with a tour of the 68-acre horse farm which currently supports 50 horses, some of whom are destined for the new Castlerea unit.
They also discussed how IHWT's online course will be tailored for Castlerea Prison and the practical, hands-on training and certification which will be managed by IHWT.
The Wicklow charity is well established with strong community links all over the country and other projects up and running via partnerships in Dublin and Limerick.
The prisoner rehabilitation concept revolves around the natural bond between the horse and the human, not only at the emotional level but also in terms of practical skills, and there will be designated courses planned for potential blacksmiths, saddlers, an ability to ride and, most importantly, the care for the wellbeing of the horse.
This unit would be the first of its kind in Europe and it is hoped that it can emulate the success of similar units internationally in terms of ultimately reducing prisoner reoffending levels through increased wellbeing and sense of responsibility and respect via equine skills development and better job prospects.
Horse welfare will be a fundamental skill that will be taught to all the inmates that are selected for the unit and the IHWT will provide suitable horses and skills to manage related courses and to advise the authorities into the future.
Once the unit is up and running, the costs of management after that will be borne by the prison service, securing its future sustainability.