The Good Side: Second Chances Times Two

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 10:05 PM MDT|Updated: 10 hours ago
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A farm in Maryland is giving retired racehorses a place to live out their days. It turns out, the horses may be teaching their caretakers how to best live out theirs.

In this week’s The Good Side, National Correspondent Debra Alfarone, takes us to a farm called, appropriately, Second Chances.

In the small town of Sykesville, Maryland, John Mayo is learning to take care of 20-year-old retired racehorse, Lucy.

John shares, “On paper, we’re learning the anatomy of the horse. We’re learning what to look for, how the horse is she’s feeling. Not on paper? We’re learning compassion and trust and patience and empathy and selflessness.”

These are attributes John plans to use in his second chance. The rolling hills of the farm are a sharp contrast to the concrete and barbed wire of nearby Central Maryland Correctional Facility. That’s where John’s serving a sentence for a marijuana charge.

Several days a week, John and seven other inmates are learning to groom and care for horses. It’s a partnership between Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. They’re earning a certificate that will help them qualify for a job, while saving these thoroughbreds from neglect, abuse, and slaughter.

Not every inmate qualifies for this program. They can’t be incarcerated for certain offenses, and they have to be at the lowest security level.

David Greene is the Warden of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Pre-Release System. “It is a high bar. You know, this is not something where you can just kind of show up without studying and get a passing grade.”

Participant Malcom Cox says he’s learned a lot of lessons from the program. He says that the horse he cares for, 19-year-old Merrywinds, saved his life. “I was on a dead-end road. I was destined to be an old drunk. I was an alcoholic. I was destined to be an old, lonely drunk. I changed a lot and I think horses had a lot to do with that.”

Cox says, “The horses can read your emotions. They teach you how they work with anger issues. You know how to have confidence, how not to be selfish. I’ve gotten way more out of the program than I ever thought I would.”

Greene says this of the men in the program, “The goal is to put them in the best position possible to return as full citizens, to be able to be good neighbors. You know, to be an active part of their community and not, you know, set aside as something less than.”

The Biden Administration estimates more than 60% of people leaving prison are unemployed a year later. This program tilts these men toward success and not statistics.

More than 60 men like Malcolm and John have graduated since 2009.