New group fights to reopen prison farms

Kingston, ON, Canada / CKWS TV
CKWS Newswatch
May 09, 2017 02:19 pm

Video will be available soon.

It’s been nearly 8 years since Ottawa started closing prison farms across the country. Two of them were here in Kingston.  Since then, the fight to reopen them hasn’t stopped. Now, a new group has come up with potential uses for the prison farm land.

These cows may yet ‘come home’ to Collins Bay Institution…. part of the original dairy herd relocated when the prison farm was closed in 2010.

While the herd could return, there’s a new proposal that puts a bigger focus on growing plants on the sprawling farmland behind the prison.

Calvin Neufeld, Evolve Our Prison Farms:
“It can focus on the production of lentils, legumes, other vegetables, nuts, seeds, and in certain climates fruit trees as well.”

Neufeld argues plant-based prison farms could be established at a fraction of the cost.

Instead of dairy cows producing milk, he says they would become a source of fertilizer for the fields…. while providing a form of inmate rehabilitation.

Calvin Neufeld, evolve our prison farms:
“The benefits of prisoners working with animals under a sanctuary model far exceeds having prisoners working with animals which ultimately involves their exploitation.”

An idea the animal rights group has pitched to Ottawa in a form of a petition.

Long time prison farm advocate, Andrew McCann says while plant-based farming is an interesting idea, he says the cows need a bigger role.

Andrew McCann:
“The key concern for us is we don’t want the Correctional Service of Canada to use this as an excuse just to have gardens. The animals need to be there. Not 6 animals, not a dozen animals, at least one hundred animals. Cows preferably. But the dairy herd that the inmates are working with that’s helping change their lives.”

Last summer a feasibility study found strong community support for the reinstatement of Collins Bay and Joyceville prison farms.

In a statement to CKWS, MP Mark Gerretsen says he is optimistic they will be reopened…. saying..
“Restoring the prison farms is one of my top priorities….”
“I am continuing to work closely with Minister Goodale on this file and I am hopeful that further steps will be taken soon.”

Corrections Canada can chew on the different views of how the prison farms should operate, but it’s ultimately their land.. and their decision.

Maegen Kulchar CKWS News, Kingston.