Can horse taming prevent reoffending? | The Economist

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This Arizona prison is teaching inmates how to break-in wild horses in the hope that the skills they learn will stop them from reoffending. So far, of the 50 inmates that have taken part, only two have found themselves back behind bars after being released.

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77 percent of prisoners released in America will be back behind bars within five years. Reoffending is one of the biggest problems facing justice systems around the world, and nowhere is this more apparent than in America, a country that has a quarter of all the world’s prisoners.

But can wild horses help?

These men are prisoners and horse whisperers they teach you a lot about relationships hard work, perseverance, patience.

At Arizona State Prison, the inmates trade their handcuffs for horses. They are learning to tame wild mustangs as part of a rehabilition programme. Since it was introduced, reoffending rates amongst those who have completed the programme have fallen to 4% over the last 5 years.

But when wild mustang herds grow too big, they struggle to find enough food and can damage the local ecosystem. To keep the population under control, around 6,000 are rounded up each year.

Most end up in government holding pens at a cost of around $49mn annually, but some are broken in and sold on through horse whispering programmes, like this one.

Since the 1970’s successive US governments have encouraged the harshest punishment for some offences, including mandatory minimum sentences for drug related crimes. This has seen the prison population balloon 500% in 50 years.

This programme is a drop in the ocean, helping only a small number of inmates. But it’s an imaginative solution to
help solve the rehabilitation problem in prisons.

The aim of the Wild Mustang programme is to teach prisoners life skills that will prevent them from reoffending. In the long run this will keep the prison population down.

the untamed animals show many similar traits to the inmates. Of the 50 inmates who have been released after completing the programme only two have returned to prison. Rehabilitation programmes like this could help break the cycle of reoffending

Pioneering programmes like this are time consuming, hard to establish and can only help a small number of inmates. But they’re effective, bucking the trend of reoffending.

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