OCALA, Fla. - Inmates in Florida are getting a second chance they thought they would never get. The "Second Chance Farm" is part of a program at the Lowell Correctional Institution that aims at giving the inmates a new ride and outlook on life. Women from the prison are paired with retired racehorses.
Brandi Jenkins started in the program three years ago. She grew up around horses but said she also learned a lot through the program -- things like how to fix a fence, drive a tractor, and repair plumbing pipes. She said her favorite part of the program is helping others connect with the animals.
"Just the looks on the new girls' faces that come in, they have just a certain smile, so we call it ‘Oh, she’s got the smile!' and when they get on their horse for the first time after they've completed all their tests, the looks on their faces make it all worth it to me," Jenkins said.
One of the ladies newer to the program is Robin Greinke. She said getting to work with the horses every day gives her something to look forward to. She said it can take a while to be placed in the program.
"You have to put in a request, and you're put on a waiting list. And I waited, and I waited, and I waited, and finally, that door opened up for me, and it was just, it was amazing," Greinke explained. "I mean you can't help but light up knowing, ‘I’m going to be out here working with horses!'"
Another woman in the program said she never thought she would work with animals, but by getting this second chance, her life now has a new meaning.
"I gave it a chance, and it's great! It's amazing! You know, just the opportunity we've been presented with here lately is amazing. I feel like it's heaven-sent!" said Akaysha Richardson. "I mean, we come in this situation, and it's unfortunate. We feel like this is the end, but it's not!"
Leaders of the program said the women leave with important life skills, along with a secure job and a little egg nest.
"I wake up in the morning and I look forward to seeing these horses every single day!" Greinke added.
The program is funded through donations and volunteers help with organizing day-to-day activities.