This weekend is the Kentucky Derby, the granddaddy of all horse races. Michelle Sigona has the story of how some of those magnificent horses are helping inmates turn their lives around.

They were born to run. But for these thoroughbreds, racing days are over. The lucky ones ended up at Maryland's Second Chances Farm, just outside Baltimore.

"These are race horses that are too injured to have a second career and are normally discarded," said Judi Coyne, program director at Second Chances.

And there, a few hardened criminals are getting second chances too.

The state of Maryland teamed up with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, pairing inmates with retired racehorses and providing an opportunity for these offenders to get on the right track.

"They have something in common. They both are kind of discarded," said Coyne. "But in this place, on this farm, working together they are whole."

Gavin Taylor is serving time for drug charges. The 26-year-old has made a lot of progress here since he first started at the farm.

"The horses wouldn't even let me in the stall," Taylor said. "Turn their back, so if I came in there I might get kicked. You gotta get comfortable 'cause they can sense if you're nervous."

Like any farm, there's hard work that needs to be done every day: Grooming the horses and tending the pastures, and even when the chores are done, there's still more heavy lifting to do.

Judi Coyne mentors and supervises these inmates during a six-month-long training program called Groom Elite.

There's always an armed guard nearby, but Coyne doesn't see any danger in these men. Instead, she sees a lot of potential.

"Both the horses and the guys were born with the expectation that life is great, and everybody wanted greatness, and then something happened along the way," said Coyne.

Judi Coyne knows what she's talking about. She spent a career working with inmates on parole and probation, and came out of retirement to run this program.

"How can you not have a program like this? It just works," said Coyne. "When they get out they are different."

Marcus Jackson, 32, is hoping to be paroled next year after serving six years of a 12-year prison sentence for assault and second-degree murder.

"I've tried to become a better person, just caring for the horses is like therapy out here, it's therapeutic, it's like our sanctuary," said Jackson.

Now he has a special bond with one particular horse.

"My favorite horse is 'Dancer,' yeah, that's my boy," said Jackson. "When I first came out here, I ain't gonna lie, I was kind of intimidated, so he was the first horse that I actually felt comfortable with 'cause he's very laid back, like me."

So far, the Second Chances Program has been a huge success.

"Some of them have gotten jobs on the outside dealing with horses. Some of them left and went on into other jobs and have been successful," said Rick Foxwell, warden of the Maryland Correctional Pre-Release System.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services expects these inmates will take away much more than the vocational skills they learn here.

"I think more before I do stuff now, instead of doing it just 'cause I could and then worry about the consequence later," said Gavin Taylor.

And even though these horses won't ever be racing again, they've become champions by turning offenders into productive citizens.

"This program helps them realize that they're still great inside," said Judi Coyne.

"It doesn't matter what they did in the past. What matters is who they are when they walk out the door and what they're going to do with that."

So just how successful is the Second Chance Farm Program? Only 7 percent of the prisoners who worked on the farm have returned to prison. That's compared to 40 percent for the general population.

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