The federal Liberal government says it will launch a study on whether it's possible to restore prison farms in the Kingston, Ont., area, potentially reversing the controversial closure of the farms by the previous Conservative government.

Responding to a question from Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen during question period in the House of Commons, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said the government was launching a "feasibility study" on restoring the two Kingston farms.

"This process will allow citizens, business leaders and other stakeholders to share their visions for what the program could look like, and it will allow the government to review the cost and efficacy of reinstatement," said Goodale.

In 2010 the former government closed all six of Canada's prison farms, saying they were no longer a useful way to rehabilitate inmates. Farms in Atlantic Canada and the Prairies were auctioned off and the two remaining farms in Kingston were closed, despite protests.

The Frontenac farm in the Kingston area was considered one of the best-run dairy farms in Canada.

Supporters hope program is updated, modelled after Britain

News the farms might make a return has some people thrilled, including Catherine Latimer, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada.

"We think the restoration of the prison farms would be a wonderful idea … I think there are a variety of skills that are derived from the prison experience," Latimer said.

"Learning how to be responsible … how to develop a work ethic, working collaboratively with others."

Latimer said she hopes the program not only returns, but is updated. She points to co-op programs in Britain where some prisons have fully functioning inmate-run restaurants.

"So the food that's produced from the prison farms could … go into supporting that kind of enterprise … There is a real opportunity for there to be more skills that are marketable coming from the prison experience."

The government has set up an online consultation form to get public input. People interested in responding must complete it by Aug. 2.