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New “Horses Of Hope” Equine Centre At Castlerea Prison Opened

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has officially opened the new “Horses of Hope” Equine Centre at Castlerea Prison.

The new equine centre has been developed on grounds adjacent to Castlerea Prison and has introduced a new innovative prisoner programme, where prisoners learn practical skills that will assist in securing employment in the equine industry post release.

The development of the equine centre is the result of an innovative partnership project, spearheaded by Jonathan Irwin, between the horse racing industry and the Irish Prison Service. Many years ago, Jonathan witnessed first-hand an equine correctional programme in the USA which is premised on the natural affinity between a human and a horse. Evidence from equine programmes internationally demonstrates that people in custody can learn practical skills that can be leveraged for future employment opportunities, foster responsibility and build confidence and self-belief while also developing compassion through the care of animals.

Speaking about the new equine facility Minster McEntee said, “I am delighted to be here today to officially open this new equine facility, “Horses of Hope” on the grounds of Castlerea Prison. This is a truly innovative and progressive addition to the prison estate, which will enhance the rehabilitative and employment options for all those who work and train here in the years to come.”

The Minister acknowledged the contribution of the equine industry to the project and said they had an important part to play in the rehabilitation of the prisoners involved, noting that the work to prevent reoffending does not stop at a prison gate on release.

The Minister added, “finding and securing meaningful and purposeful work and activity after release from prison is absolutely essential to give people real hope. It gives people the opportunity to have a different, better life for themselves and their families upon release. This is why this programme, which provides a real pathway to employment and opportunities for the future, is so important. As Minister for Justice I am committed to preventing and reducing reoffending in our communities, but also helping to divert offenders away from a life of crime. Rehabilitation, training and education for those who are in prison is key to that.”

Also speaking at the event on behalf of the equestrian industry Robert Hall said, “I’m so proud that as global leaders on the racecourse and within all equine activities, Ireland should embrace this hugely exciting project. This will help broaden our prowess across the full spectrum. With a syllabus that includes every aspect of responsible horse ownership we can help to reduce reoffending, while also educating a potential workforce. It also offers a valuable additional purpose for suitable horses and ponies. Indeed, Castlerea can become a worldwide role model.”


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