In March I wrote to our local MP about the proposed closing of Canada's prison farms. It was a polite, even complimentary, letter but I received no acknowledgement at all.
This federal government move seems to be driven by an ideologically-driven wish to punish and, perhaps, a lack of respect for the fact that learning to grow food is one of the most important skills a citizen in this era could have - not to mention the fact that farming provides very good learning opportunities to develop the basic attitudes and understanding that makes for a good worker. (I speak from my experience as a market gardener). According to Kingston this Week:
Dianne Dowling, Vice President of the National Farmers Union . . . argues that the farms allow inmates to acquire key transferable skills. They not only learn practical trades such as meat-cutting, food processing, and equipment operations, but also become accustomed to acceptable workplace behaviour.
“The prison farms offer inmates a chance to rehabilitate by learning employment skills such as [punctuality], job commitment, and teamwork,” she says.
Productivity at these farms is worth noting, she says.
The eggs and dairy products produced at Frontenac Institution and meat processed at the Pittsburgh Institution abattoir are used in federal prisons in Ontario and Quebec, and hundreds of dozens of eggs have been donated to the local food bank. The farm at Frontenac spends about $900,000 in the local economy, Dowling points out, helping support businesses such as farm equipment dealers, feed mills and tradespeople.
As the sign says, the inmates are paying their way through agriculture, Dowling states.
With continued public protest against the proposed closures and examples like New Zealand's successful organic prison farms, there's hope yet that we may see the continuation of a simple, sane and productive aspect of prisons and prison life.
- Harper government's plans to shut prison farms show lack of vision
- Prison farm may not produce farmers but could create better people - Jan.13/10
- The Future of Prison Farms - audio and transcript
- Cultivating convicts - Dec.4/09
- Ending prison farms defies logic - Oct.24/09
- First step toward closing the two prison farms in kingston could come this June -Feb.3/10
- Prison farm supporters take case to Ottawa - Apr.3/10
- Prison farms shouldn't be plowed under - Apr.27/10
- Prison farms should remain in Canada - Apr.29/10
- Sale of prison farm herd criticized - Jun.23/10
- Hundreds protest prison farm closure - Aug.9/10
- Liberals pledge to reopen federal prison farms - Sep.24/10