Photo from NUPGE article Major campaign launched to save prison farms - "Dating back to the 1880s, the program includes two operations in the Kingston, Ont. area, and others near Dorchester, N.B., Stony Mountain, Man., Prince Albert, Sask. and Innisfail, Alta."
~SAVE OUR FARMS! - The ‘Save Our Farms’ campaign was launched by the men and women who oversee, instruct and work with inmates in federal prison farm programs, members of the Union of Solicitor General Employees (USGE-PSAC). They welcome the support of national, regional and local organizations that have an interest in a safe, secure and sustainable food supply. Also read "THE FUTURE OF PRISON FARMS II" and III which also includes great audio interviews. Please be sure to take notice of all the awesome links in the sidebar as well.
The Conservatives don't blink an eye at spending at least 1.1 BILLION dollars of taxpayer money on the G8/G20 Summits - but $4.1 million for a program that helps inmates develop valuable life skills that they can use upon release into the community while at the same time providing food for correctional centers gets wiped out - "When they start buying that food (after the program ends) it will cost them at least 50 per cent more on top of what they’re spending." (Tony Abreau, relief instructor for Corcan). And a dairy farmer asked if they planned to import that produce from the US. No officials could answer that question.
Keep prison farms open, Liberals urge By Rick McGee
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is warning against the Harper government’s decision to cut Canada’s federal prison farms, and is calling for an immediate independent review of the program before prison farms are permanently closed.
“Prison farms benefit everyone involved in them: farmers, corrections workers, and inmates,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “Because Liberals recognize the necessity of rehabilitation programming for preventing repeat offenses, we are demanding an immediate review, in the hopes of preventing the Conservatives from closing these farms.”
Last year, the Harper government announced their plan to phase out six prison farms that currently employ 300 federal prisoners. Last month, the House of Commons Public Safety Committee asked the government to release the strategic review of prison farms from the Department of Correctional Services.
Liberals are calling on the government to wait for the independent review to be completed before moving forward with the closure of any prison farms. The Conservative decision to close prison farms would likely be irreversible, as land and equipment will be sold for other uses.
“The Harper government only cares about locking more people up and throwing away the key in their planned super prisons,” said Liberal Public Safety Critic Mark Holland. “They’ve ignored the fact that inmates working on prison farms develop critical life and employability skills that reduce their risk of re-offending after release – helping to prevent crime and protect our communities.”
There are six prison farms in Canada -- two within the city limits of Kingston, and one each in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The prison farm program is considered an extremely effective rehabilitation and training program that contributes to public safety and that also provides food for federal and provincial inmates.
Mr. Ignatieff is calling for the Harper government to wait for an open and transparent independent review of the prison farm programs operated by the Correctional Service of Canada that will consider:
• The value of farm employment and training of inmates;
• The impact of the closure on rehabilitation programs;
• The influence that employment in the farm environment has on recidivism;
• The impact that farm closures have had on local agriculture economies; and
• The increase in the cost of operating prisons which are no longer able to purchase food products from prison farms.
“Local farmers appreciate the benefits of these productive prison farms for stimulating the local economy,” said Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter. “Unlike the Conservatives, our party recognizes the importance of these farms to helping offenders get back on the right track, and for supporting the communities where prisons are located.” - Fin
While I can report on the views of politicians regarding the closures, here's a great citizen "Letter to the Editor" from the Kingston Whig Standard worth a reprint:
Recently, I attended a public meeting in Kingston that addressed the current issue of prison farm closures.
Of particular interest was the impending closures of farms at Pittsburgh and Frontenac institutions.
This forum was an opportunity to hear MPs Wayne Easter, Liberal agriculture critic, and Mark Holland, Liberal critic for public safety, reflect on their recent tour of four of Canada's prison farm facilities.
Both were impressed with these operations; especially the two in Kingston. When they had an opportunity to speak with some inmates who worked on these farms, they noted their strong work ethic and sense of pride.
They also noted the broad skill set they were acquiring through such work.
According to one retired Corrections employee, it would seem that the farm program has a proven track record for its rehabilitative impact. Of the 50-plus inmates that were released during his employment at Frontenac Institution, not one reoffended. Perhaps there is something to be said for a program that promotes accountability through work that heals and helps one along the path to become a better human being.
Working the land, being responsible for the livelihood of animals, and broadening one's skill set, is a meaningful way to reach this end. The rehabilitation of inmates is crucial, as most will at some point be released into society. What kind of neighbour would you like?
The government has claimed that $4 million is lost annually by keeping these facilities open. What evidence is there of this? Perhaps we could speculate how much more might be lost if they were to tender food -- currently produced by the prisons -- to other providers (perhaps not even Canadian). Not only do these farms feed all of the inmates from these prisons and others, but they also donate a few hundred dozen eggs annually to the food bank. Uniquely, Pittsburgh Institution boasts an abbatoir as well; whose services are relied on by approximately 150 businesses in the Kingston area.
If a super prison -- which would house inmates from all levels of incarceration -- were to be built in place of these prison farms, the rehabilitative benefit of inmates would be significantly reduced. This style of institution has been tried in the U.S. and was unsuccessful. They now recognize the wrong-headedness of this direction. Why then would we want to follow in failed footsteps?
Finally, how can we, in clear conscience, sacrifice land, classed as prime agricultural, when fertile ground is being eaten up by development on a daily basis? Can we really afford to keep relying on other countries to feed us? This seems unconscienable, given the issue of food security and the ongoing oil crisis. Does this really make financial sense? Are we that removed from our roots? ~ By Sue Peters Inverary
From the Save Our Prison Farms National Campaign (*PLEASE* visit the site):
This new Save Our Prison Farms website has been set up by the national campaign team to respond to growing public concern over the immanent shut down of Canada's six prison farms. We believe that our government will reverse its misguided policy decision as it continues to discover that the vast majority of Canadians of all political stripes support this productive, cost effective, rehabilitative farm-based program.
Opportunities for you and/or your organization to get involved are listed on the You Can Take Action page.
This campaign is a lightening rod for addressing the Conservative Party's generally short-sighted policies on farming, food and justice. The decision to shut down this successful rehabilitation program symbolizes our government's lack of understanding of what actually makes the public safe, and their failure to recognize the value of a restorative approach to justice and a sustainable, local approach to the future of farming and food.
Save Our Prison Farms Information and Action Meeting
Thursday, May 27th, 7:30pm - Perth, Ontario
Perth Lions Hall, Perth Fair Grounds
Speaker include: Mark Holland, Liberal Public Safety Critic; Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario; Dianne Dowling, National Farmers Union, Local 316 President; John Williamson, Frontenac Federation of Agriculture, Past-president.
May 17, 2010 - Telegraph-Journal, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, story: New Brunswick's only prison farm still fully operational
May 12, 2010 - CKWS Television, Kingston, Ontario, video news report: Spin offs from prison farms - food bank, farm supply businesses
May 11, 2010 - CKWS Television, Kingston, Ontario, video news report: On recent campaign events in Athens and Napanee, Ontario
May 11, 2010 - Liberal Party of Canada, Press Release: Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff denounces the planned prison farm closures and calls for a public inquiry
May 6, 2010 - Kingston Whig Standard, Kingston, Ontario, story: Ex-inmate makes personal plea to keep farms
May 5, 2010 - The Globe and Mail, story: Critics claim closing prison farms would create $1-million milk bill