Dark Horse Justice: ‘Racing NSW – Corrective Services NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program’ as a case study for innovative justice

Miss Ashlee Gore1

1Western Syndey University, Liverpool, Australia

This poster explores the potential overlaps and opportunities in the experiences of institutionalized offenders and ex-racehorses working together in ‘Prison Animal Programs’ (PAP’s) or ‘Equine Assisted Learning’ (EAL). Using the unique case study of the innovative ‘Racing NSW – Corrective Services NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program’. This poster suggests that the program offers a unique and innovative justice intervention at the intersection of industry, community, and social justice that requires further examination.

Despite numerous descriptive reports of prison-based programs involving horses (Taylor, 2001; Tramutt, 2003; Tyler, 1995; Virdine, Owen-Smith, & Faulkner, 2002), there are very few robust studies in this area (Furst 2006: Hemmingway 2016).

The ‘Racing NSW – Corrective Services NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program’ is part of a thoroughbred rehabilitation program, introduced to St Heliers Correctional Centre in partnership with Racing NSW. The not-for-profit venture was launched in 2011.The initiative was designed to retrain thoroughbreds for new pursuits, while rehabilitating prison inmates with a range of skills and job prospects.

This poster presents this case study example with an argument that the specific use of ex-race horses through racing NSW constitutes an example of justice ‘done with’ reciprocating subjects rather than ‘done to’ offenders. What makes this this program distinct is the anecdotal discussions that suggest that offenders have many parallel experiences to ex-race horses which can increase the capacity for reciprocal reintegration. Much like prisoners, trainers from the racing NSW initiative describe racehorses as sharing experiences of institutionalization, regimentation, isolation, PTSD symptoms, as well as limited capacity to reintegrate into the community due to lack of training and options. The poster considers how these perceived shared experiences with an animal in the context of a mutually beneficial program might be further investigated and how this may be conceptualized within a desistance framework, as well as the broader frame of innovative justice.


Ashlee recently submitted her PhD thesis for examination, and has since been appointed as a lecturer in Criminology and Policing at the University of Western Sydney. She has been a tutor, unit coordinator and research assistant with the School of Social Science and Psychology for many years, teaching across both the criminology and sociology disciplines.

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