The brainchild of Jonathan Irwin, founder of the Jack & Jill charity, the horse welfare centre will be run in collaboration with a partner from the equine industry.
Minster Stanton said he was delighted with the project.
“A key objective of the programme is to provide offenders with practical skills, while also teaching compassion through the care of animals.
“I want to recognise and thank Jonathan Irwin for his vision and drive, which as a result, has ensured that this project has moved from being a unique idea to reality.
“This project will benefit many offenders, and will make our communities safer in the future.”
The minister said that prisoners face many barriers to successful reintegration into society and, in particular, in finding jobs.
“This project, will give participants many positive benefits in terms of self-development, preparation for employment, positive impact, and physical and mental wellbeing, and these will be vital as they seek to turn their lives around after release,” he said.
The horse-racing industry has been tapped for funds by Jonathan Irwin to support the programme.
Martin Reilly (Governor of Castlerea Prison) said that the prison was delighted to be chosen as the location for the new national centre.
“This is an exciting new venture for Castlerea Prison and the Irish Prison Service, which will have many positive benefits for the participants, but ultimately for our communities who will be safer by the reduction in reoffending.”
“Public safety is achieved by working innovatively with offenders, and addressing the primary causes of their offending behaviour.
“Lack of education, access to healthcare, homelessness, substance misuse, and addiction are all causes of offending, and services are available across the estate to address these issues.
“In addition, finding and securing meaningful and purposeful work and activity after release is absolutely essential to give offenders real hope, and the opportunity to have a different, better life for themselves and their families after prison” he said.
A part-time facility manager post will support the delivery of the horse care programme and coordination of an accredited training course, endorsed by the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE), Ireland’s academy for the horse racing industry and international jockey training.
The construction project will take six months to complete and consists of stabling for ten horses, an exercise arena, and ancillary facilities.
The secure perimeter fence will be monitored by CCTV coverage from the prisons control room, with intruder alarm.