On a recent fall morning, four women inmates from Chester County Prison entered an indoor arena at the Thorncroft Equestrian Center and began to meet the duo who have been helping them navigate their way toward success outside of the prison walls.
But Jubilee and Mia are not your traditional counselors or social workers. Rather, they are the horses the quartet have come to know while engaging in equine therapy at the center outside Malvern, a developing part of the county's acclaimed Women's Reentry Assessment and Programming (WRAP) initiative.
The inmates, under the supervision of human therapists and a probation officer, engage the horses in narrative exercises that are meant to help them deal with the obstacles that have kept them revolving through the doors of prisons as they try to deal with the underlying traumas, anxieties, and addictions that contribute to their criminal histories.
"This program means a lot to us," echoed Joy, another inmate who asked that her last name not be used in this story but who happily described how much help it had been preparing her for life in release. "I have had years of addiction and trauma, and I've been in and out of prison since I was 18. I'm 48. Normally, you just leave jail and go home and start getting high. This therapy gives me a plan to keep me going.
To read more of Michael Rellahan's article, please click here.