Authorities are recognising the role equines play in turning offenders away from crime, in what has been seen as another example of the power of horses.
The Ministry of Justice told H&H charities such as Key4Life, which works with serving and former prisoners, with horses, have a “vital role” in preventing reoffending, saving public money and keeping people safer.
Key4Life founder Eva Hamilton told H&H she also works with people thought to be at risk of going to prison, and aims to prevent reoffending and help participants get back into work.
Ms Hamilton said one of her first experiences of taking horses into prisons was with a group of gang members.
“They were absolutely out of control,” she said. “I had military people with me who said, ‘Forget it, you’ve taken on too much.’ I said, ‘Give me half an hour.’”
Ms Hamilton said the horses help “unlock” negative emotions in participants, who often respect them, having never felt respect before. They work with the horses on the ground and ridden.
“More than 60% of people who come through the programme are in employment a year later,” Ms Hamilton said. “Our reoffending rate is also much lower than the national figure — and we’re dealing with some of the toughest people in the system.”
Ms Hamilton said she thinks the horses’ sheer physical size is a factor in instilling respect, as well as intrigue.
“And once they ride, they can’t get enough,” she added. “Contact with the horses calms them down, it’s a connection.”
A Ministry of Justice report found a 29% reoffending rate among Key4Life participants, compared to 47% in a comparison group, stating: “This analysis provides evidence that, for every 100 participants, Key4Life may decrease the number of proven reoffences during a one-year period by between 87 and 140 offences.”
A ministry spokesman told H&H: “The key to cutting reoffending, and overall crime, is to have a justice system that rehabilitates criminals — and access to a stable job is a crucial factor.
“Charities like Key4Life play a vital role in helping to turn offenders away from a life of crime, cutting the annual £18bn cost of reoffending and ultimately keeping the public safer.”
The British Horse Society told H&H Key4Life’s “remarkable story is testament to the magical power of horses which can transform lives”.
A spokesman added: “We launched Changing Lives Through Horses to harness this power, addressing young people excluded or at risk of exclusion with a programme designed to get them back into education or employment. Three years on and 96% of the young people who have experienced Changing Lives have returned to full-time education.
“This extraordinary result is once again testament to the power of horses.”
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