Beyond the Walls - Professional Equine Rescue Handler Cherie Miller

Before prison, my life was good until about age 30. That’s when I started doing and selling drugs – I changed as a person. I started fighting and getting arrested for different things, I started smoking meth at about age 32 and I started shooting it at about age 34. That’s really when my life changed for the worse.

picture of a horse's head

All I could think about was how and when I was going to get my next shot or fix. I started stealing from family and staying away from my home and my kids who were, before then, my number one priority. I was raised very well and I come from a good family, I always prided myself for being a good mother and daughter so this was not like me at all. My family had never been through this with any other member so no one knew what was happening with me or what to do about it. I’m sure not many people say this, but going to prison was the best thing that could have happened to me at that point. I had lost custody of my children, my whole world fell apart, and I just didn’t care about anything after that. When I got arrested for the last time, my life was like a runaway train spiraling out of control. My family had always bailed me out every time I got arrested so overnight was the longest I’d ever stayed in jail. This last time I was arrested was on a drug charge and my Dad loved me enough to show me tough love so he didn’t bail me out, which was what I needed although I didn’t think so at the time. I received a 10 year sentence, five to serve.

During the two and half years I was in prison, I took advantage of every program they had to offer. I got my GED and I was involved in every faith-based program they offered. I was on the dance team, in the prison choir, in the traveling choir, “The Voices of Hope,” and I had an outside detail, which meant I could go outside of the prison gates to work. I was working general labor, which was mowing, weed eating, etc. when I found out that the prison was starting a horse rescue program. I signed up for the detail even though I had never been around horses and knew nothing about them. I was extremely excited when I found out that I was selected for it. One other person was chosen as well, and the both of us worked hard to prepare the area; we cleaned up and built fences to get the place ready for the horses. When we got our first horses they were starved, weak and didn’t trust people at all. I was just as scared as they were. My detail officer, Captain Gallman, taught me so much and the more I learned, the better I got at helping the horses. When I saw that I could fully rehabilitate a dying horse so it was completely healthy, I fell in love with it. I wanted to learn more so when Captain Gallman told me I could go to college in prison and get a certificate in equine handling.

About eight or nine months after that, I was released from prison. I had completed my resume in reentry on equine handling and got a job within three days of my release on a horse rescue farm. I worked there for a year and a half, until my hours got cut to 15 hours a week and had no choice but to find another job. Now I work at a carpet mill mending carpet for 40 hours plus a week.

The Equine program made and continues to make a difference in helping these poor, innocent horses who just want to be loved and cared for, just like me. I not only helped to rehabilitate the horses, the horses helped rehabilitate me.

My advice to current offenders is this, take advantage of the programs that GDC offers you; they are there to help you. I know you feel like you’re just a number, but you’re not. You can’t let your crime define who you are. You made a bad decision or mistake, but you are better than the choice you made. Yes, you are in prison; but you will get out one day and when that day comes you can use what you learned in prison to be a better, be a different person on the outside. The change has to start with you, you have to want it. Do your time and don’t let your time do you. This means stay busy, take advantage of everything that they have to offer…if you stay busy and stay positive your time will fly by. Trust me I know, I have about 20 or more certificates where I completed many different classes and programs as well as On-the-job trainings. You can either get out feeling shameful and/or not caring, or you can get out feeling like a survivor, who has overcome who you use to be, and promise yourself that you won’t go back.