House Unanimously Approves Rep. Dye’s Wild Horse Inmate Program Study Bill
A bill that would establish a study to look into the feasibility of establishing a Wild Horse Inmate Program in Washington state, similar to Arizona, unanimously passed the House of Representatives Wednesday.
House Bill 2579 was introduced by 9th District Rep. Mary Dye, who toured the Arizona Department of Corrections' Wild Horse Inmate Program last fall in Florence, Arizona.
“The Arizona program involves about 30 inmates working to train wild mustangs that have been captured from Bureau of Land Management public rangelands in western Arizona. The inmates work in the Gentling Program to calm the animals so they can be adopted. Many of the inmates have had no prior horse experience,” said Dye, R-Pomeroy.
“The program gives inmates hands-on training in the equestrian field, helps them to build self-confidence as they care for the animals, and provides the opportunity for employable skills they can use upon release. The recidivism rate for those inmates who have participated in the program and served their time is low,” she added. “It also helps the Bureau of Land Management manage the horse population on public lands.”
Dye was impressed with the Arizona program and felt it could be beneficial in Washington state.
“When I returned home, I met with officials at the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center in Connell. I also spoke with Walla Walla Community College, which until this year offered a farrier program to teach people how to trim hooves and shoe a horse. I think it would be great to add this to the other programs the college is already offering for the inmates at Connell, so they not only learn how to work with horses, but can support the college's farrier program,” said Dye.
House Bill 2579 would require the Washington Department of Corrections to study, evaluate and report on the feasibility of implementing wild horse training at the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center.
“Walla Walla Community College and prison officials at Connell are enthusiastic and excited about the possibility of this program. While the inmates learn how to work with horses, they also have the potential to certify as a farrier, which gives them a marketable skill when they finish serving their time,” noted Dye.
The study would also investigate if the program would be beneficial to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine to determine if students could practice care at the facilities. If the bill becomes law, a report to the governor and the Legislature would be due by Nov. 1, 2020.
“We need some planning and preparation to create this program. If the report comes back positive, it's my hope we can work during the 2021 session to fund it and get this program implemented for the inmates, students and our community,” added Dye.
The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.