Prison Horse Farm Denied Funding
The one and only equine training program at a Florida state prison will go on even though Gov. Rick Scott just vetoed new funding for the project.
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation program at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Fla., is just one of many programs in Florida that were denied funding in this year's budget.
Inmates of the institution like Nicole Mason-Suares get to work on the "second chance farm" five days a week and care for the retired race horses.
"It's such a blessing to me to think that I get this opportunity and I am incarcerated. It's beyond my wildest dreams," said Mason-Suares.
Mason-Suares and other prisoners say the program makes them feel like they have a purpose in life and has changed them for the better.
"I believe that this has helped me in my confidence, my leadership skills and my decision making process," said Mason-Suares.
Another inmate, Tammy Spears, said the program especially helps her learn coping skills.
"Prison can be two things; it can be a learning experience or it can be a lifestyle. I turned it into a learning experience. I fought to get out here and I am going to keep it until I go home," said Spears.
While the inmates care for the horses and farm, money is still needed for feed, equipment and veterinary care.
Currently, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation raises about $125,000 to $150,000 for the farm. There was a chance the program was going to receive $100,000 from the state, but the governor vetoed the funding.
Gus Mazorra, who is the warden for the Lowell Correctional Institution, says the funding would've been used for new equipment like weed eaters and tractors.
"Anybody in any agency who is given $100,000 could use it. Especially during tough budget times," said Mazorra.
However Mazorra said he doesn't believe the budget cuts will have a huge effect on the farm.
"Even though the governor isn't going to give us money anymore, there is still another door that will open. People still do support us and will still make a way," said Mason-Suares.
By keeping the "second chance farm" running, the inmates are less likely to return to prison one they are released.
One of the programs that Gov. Rick Scott did approve was a $2 million program for the Florida Horse Park in Ocala.
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