Prison farms in peril

Liberal Party of Canada supports reinstatement of prison farms

Hope the cow, symbolic of the fight to save prison farms, was brought in front of City Hall.
Hope the cow, symbolic of the fight to save prison farms, was brought in front of City Hall.

The Liberal Party of Canada announced their commitment to re-establishing prison farms at an open press conference yesterday at City Hall.

Liberal Opposition Critic for Public Safety and National Security Mark Holland said he was very disappointed with the lack of support from the Canadian government in regards to the prison farms.

“The prison farms have to be re-opened, if not expanded,” Holland said at the press conference. “We, the Liberal Party of Canada, are formally saying that we would restore prison farms,” he said, adding that the Party recognizes the importance of the rehabilitation provided by the prison farms.

Holland said the Liberal Party is currently trying to get Parliament to take a position on the prison farm situation.

“We will fight to not accept the closure, and to bring the truth to the public,” he said.

Holland said he worries that with the closure of the prison farms, super-prisons will emerge in their place leading to massive overcrowding like in California. He calls these prisons crime-factories because the overcrowding of prisoners into cells inevitably leads to more crime within the prisons.

“They won’t listen to reason, only polls,” he said, regarding the Conservative government.

“If we lose the lands, we’re in a big bind. There’s a strong feeling that Parliament doesn’t have a lot of life left. Our greatest asset may be time.”

Though the latest protest on the closure of prison farms on Aug. 3 saw the arrest of 24 protestors, farm advocates remain optimistic.

“We lost a battle, but we intend to win the war,” Dianne Dowling, spokesperson for the Save Our Prison Farms coalition said at a press conference.

In Feb. 2009 Prime Minister Harper announced the closure of all of Canada’s six prison farms, two of which are in the Kingston area. For the past 18 months, Liberal activists have been protesting the closure, arguing that the farms act as a necessary and successful method of rehabilitation for low-risk criminal offenders.

Although all of the prison farm animals were auctioned off in early August, the Save Our Prison Farms coalition managed to collect a $300 share to buy back 20 of the hens in one week. They also set up the Penitentiary Farm Herd Co-op to manage the animals, in the hopes that they will soon be returned to the prison farms. Dowling said that many believe that there should be something to replace the prison farms, however the government currently has no replacement planned.

“In the interim the plan is to rent the land to other farmers. It’s a gem of farmland,” she said, adding that closing the prison farms will come at a huge cost to the community because they support the prison population, as well as local food banks.

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