Correctional center in Vinita offers unique program for inmates

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“I think it’s a big privilege for everybody to be out here doing stuff,” explained inmate Steve Daniel. “You do it out in the world and to be able to do it while you are in prison is very special.”

Steve Daniel is an inmate at the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinta and is one of a select few working in the site’s equine breeding and training program

During the past 15 years, it has been transformative for inmates working daily caring for horses.

“Some of these guys that come in here that have never rode a horse, never put a shoe on a horse, or anything like that and I can kind of walk them through some things,” Daniel added.

There are other programs similar in the state but this one is special.

“This is the only farm ranch here in the prison system that raises these babies and produces them and then we ship them onto other facilities after they are broke,” said program manager Kenneth Kays.

Kays, who launched the program, says it is difficult to get horses in the prison system.

He adds inmates form a very close bond with the animals as they prepare to integrate back into society.

For many, they say it gives them a realness to what life is like working in the cattle operations business.

“A lot of them picking up stuff in here,” Daniel explained. “If they want to become a horseshoe, they can pick it up in here and take it out in the world and use it out there.”

And for Daniel, he is hoping this inspires him long after his time at the correctional facility is over.

“I’m wanting to just spend the rest of my life trying to help someone and hopefully help them from getting in here.”

Officials with the center say holding the programs saves the Department of Corrections about $25,000 a year.

Without the program, they would have to spend those funds to help manage the farm.

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