Prison farms: Support gearing up for rally and public consultation next week
Kingston – For more than six years, people in the Kingston area have waited for the chance to urge the Minister of Public Safety to re-instate Canada's prison farms. On August 16, Minister Ralph Goodale will be at a public meeting in Kingston to listen.
TOWNHALL organized by Correctional Service Canada (CSC)
RALLY of prison farm supporters
"We are very pleased that the federal government is conducting this study," says Jeff Peters, a member of the Save Our Prison Farms (SOPF) committee and a local beef farmer. "The meeting and the survey are tremendous opportunities for the public to let CSC and Minister Goodale know why we want to have the prison farms restored – after all, we have looked after the cows for six years now, it’s time they go home. "
The prison farms provided much needed rehabilitation and work training. They offered a step towards re-integrating into society upon release and reduced re-offending rates," says Bridget Doherty, of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of creation office of the Sisters of Providence and a member of the SOPF committee. "The end result is increased community safety.
In addition to all the other good reasons to restore the prison farm program, these two farms represent about 1500 acres of excellent agricultural land in public hands," says Dianne Dowling, a dairy farmer and SOPF committee member. "Given the uncertain global economy, politics and climate, every community needs to increase its ability to feed itself. In the future, the prison farm land could be vital to the food security of the region. We need to keep the doors open for growing food there in coming years.
We will have a positive message for CSC and for Minister Goodale at the meeting," says Peters. "We will be asking them to move as quickly as they can from listening to planning to rebuilding the prison farms. We look forward to seeing Kingston being known, not as the prison capital of Canada, but as the rehabilitation capital of Canada."
In 2010, Canada's prison farm program operating at six minimum security institutions was closed. The primary reason stated by the government of the day was cost but, when pressed, the claim was never substantiated. A second argument was that few inmates, upon release, were getting jobs in agriculture. Supporters argued that inmates who had worked on the prison farms found employment in trucking, manufacturing, construction and heavy equipment operation, and had a lower than average re-offending rate. As well, supporters said the farms provided a broad range of job opportunities at the institutions and effective work skills, training and rehabilitation for inmates while supplying food for the prison system.
Two of the six sites were located in Kingston; the others were in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In Kingston, the prison farm at Frontenac Institution produced milk from a herd of 150 dairy cows, and eggs from 7000 laying hens, with the food being used in the prison system in Ontario as well as being donated to the local food bank. The prison farm at Pittsburg Institution includes an abattoir that is used by area farmers to market their meat locally.
Hundreds of prison farm supporters in the Kingston region campaigned for 18 months to keep the prison farm program operating, but the program ended when the dairy herd was removed from the prison farm in August 2010, and auctioned in Elmira, Ontario.
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Photos from sixth anniversary vigil last evening at Collins Bay