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Inmates tame wild horses — and save taxpayers money

Posted at 11:32 PM, Jan 06, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-06 23:36:03-05

GUNNISON, UT (CBS News) -- Breaking a wild horse is not an easy job, but at one ranch in Utah,  it's the best job. That's because the horses at the Hard Time Corral are tamed by prison inmates.

Gus Warr heads up the program for the Bureau of Land Management.

"I've got dozens and dozens of heartfelt letters from families of inmates that are telling me this program has saved my son," Warr said.  

The ranch is built next to Utah's maximum security prison in Gunnison. Andy Anderson is serving a four-year sentence for stealing painkillers. The former ranch foreman says working here helps him more than drug rehab classes.

"When I first came here, I was still jonesing, wanting pills," Anderson said. "I don't want that anymore. I want to get back on a horse once I get out of here."

So why should inmates serving time in prison be allowed to ride horses? Two reasons: The staff here says it helps them when they get out, and it has saved taxpayers across the country more than $4 million.

The savings come from the nearly free labor provided by the inmates. They do everything at the ranch, from building the corrals to breaking the horses.

Wild horses are a serious problem out West, because there's not enough food and water to support them. That's why they are brought here, so they can be trained to live in a more controlled environment. After the inmates train them, the horses are sold at auction.

Cody Turner has been in and out prison for more than 10 years. But he says working with horses has changed him

"I'm hoping that I have another chance in life and I believe he'll have another chance with me," Turner said.

Over the past seven years, the Hard Time Corral has worked with more than 120 convicted criminals. Giving them -- and their horses -- a shot at a new life.