WARREN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - State officials are praising a new program that's using prison inmates to help rehabilitate abused horses.
The program, called "Shelter Me", has been underway for about six months at the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren. That's a minimum security corrections facility that's also the site of the state prison farm.
The Division of Animal Welfare began the program with two horses, which had either been given up by their former owners or taken through a court order. Bolduc has two inmates who spend seven days a week caring for the animals. Bolduc work crews also renovated the barn, cut the lumber, built the fences and even harvested the hay the horses eat. The inmates assigned to the project both had horse experience earlier in their lives, and say they love the chance to work with the animals.
The Commissioners of the departments of Corrections and Agriculture came to Bolduc on Thursday to praise the program. They say besides helping horses, it provides motivation and important life skills training for the inmates. Bolduc Director Benjamin Beal told NEWS CENTER that for some inmates, working in the program would be "life changing".
Having inmates care for the horses also saves money for the state, which would otherwise have to pay to board the horses. The Division of Animal Welfare plans to offer the horses for adoption once they have been rehabilitated. Two more horses are due to arrive soon, and Bolduc officials say they could find room for a few more, if needed.