Dorchester bird houses

The inmates have crafted garden furniture, bird houses and ceramics. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

Prisoners at the federal facilities in Dorchester are helping to raise money for a home in the village where their families can stay while they visit.

The Mountain Top House is the only accommodation in Dorchester for inmates' families.

Board member Macx MacNichol, a former librarian at the prison, says the cost of heat and insurance at the six-bedroom home has gone up. He asked some of the prisoners who make cedar garden furniture, bird houses and ceramics to help.

"I've known you guys and your work for years. I said, 'Would you be interested in donating some of your work to a fundraiser?'  They said, 'No problem,'" he said.

The fundraiser went ahead on Saturday.

Jeannie Lowerison, another board member, says the house was opened 12 years ago to help families because Dorchester is so far away from major centres.

Mountain Top House

Mountain Top House offers inexpensive rooms and meals to families of inmates from Dorchester Penitentiary. (CBC)

"We need to have a place for them to come and have something to eat and wash up and get away for a while," she said. 

Lowerison also worked at the penitentiary and said most families come for three days from across Atlantic Canada and Quebec. But others come from much farther away.

"I've had them from Pennsylvania, had them from France, had them from England," she said.

She says the house has helped prisoners keep in touch with their families and regular contact makes a big difference in getting inmates to change their ways.

About 300 people use the house every year.