“We are not able to sustain the program without losing money…”
In this 2007 file photo, an inmate works with “Norton” in the round pen with part of the herd in the background as part of the wild horse program at the Gunnison State Prison in Gunnison. Tom Smart, Deseret News
GUNNISON — Disagreement over the costs associated with a wild horse gentling program at the Gunnison prison has led to its suspension, and efforts are underway to find a place for 1,500 horses.
The program’s cessation means the Bureau of Land Management will move about 90 percent of the animals to out-of-state facilities, with a prison-imposed deadline to have that accomplished by Oct. 6.
“The BLM’s Utah State Office has valued our relationship with the Utah Department of Corrections and regret that it has decided to terminate the Wild Horse Inmate Program at Gunnison,” said Tom Gorey, acting spokesman for the BLM in Utah. “This program has aided in the rehabilitation of inmates and has, through the gentling of horses, helped place animals into good, private care.”
Gorey added that the state agency decision to end the program will complicate national efforts to make sure there is enough off-range holding capacity for wild horses and burros that are removed off public ranges.
Mike Haddon, deputy director of the Utah Department of Corrections, said the program was losing money and had very little inmate participation. The BLM was informed of the agency’s decision on Friday.
“We are not able to sustain the program without losing money,” he said. “The program was not cost-effective, and we do not know if it was effective in reducing recidivism. We do know it was not serving a lot of inmates.”
Since its inception in 2007, the program had 175 inmates who gentled horses for the public to adopt through BLM-managed programs. Of those 175 graduates, Haddon said only 82 of them had been released from prison — too small a number to effectively judge if the program had any viable, lasting impacts.
Haddon said the differences over money arose in 2012 when the initial five-year contract was renegotiated from a per-head, per day rate to another model of reimbursement.
“There was a discrepancy and dispute between what the BLM believes the department should be reimbursed and what the department believes it should be reimbursed,” he said.
An audit by the Office of Inspector General released last year shows a more than million-dollar discrepancy between the two entities that raised questions over the costs.
The Utah Correctional Industries under which the program operated reported costs of a little more than $5.3 million for the five-year contract period, of which auditors said $1 million was “questioned” —or not allowable under the terms of the agreement.
Of that million dollars, $928,000 was deemed “unsupported,” meaning documentation related to the costs was insufficient, the report said…(CONTINUED)
IN THE HANDS OF KILL BUYERS! When horses are purchased at auction by buyers intending to kill them, they're hauled away in double- decker tractor trailers where they are beaten and often blinded with baseball bats to mollify them. After crossing the border into Mexico, the animals are stabbed on each side-an act to tenderize their meat-and immobilized. Workers, then saw the horses legs off, at the knee and hang them to bleed out-all while the horses are ALIVE! (This is an excerpt, from an article written by Missy Diaz, crediting Victoria Mc Cullough and Sen. Joe Abruzzo for bringing awareness of horse slaughter, to Florida. In 2010 Florida Legislation unanimously passed the Horse Protection Bill, making it a felony to slaughter horses for personal or commercial use.)