Ottawa

Prison farm closings are firm: minister

Lobbying to save Canada's prison farms has not changed the government's plans to close them.

Lobbying to save Canada's prison farms has not changed the government's plans to close them.

The decision to phase out the farms will not be reversed, said Chris McCluskey, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. His confirmation to CBC News came a few days after prison farm supporters appealed to the House of Commons public safety committee to keep the farms open.

About 300 inmates work on the six farms across the country, which started in the 1880s and currently supply milk and eggs to federal prisons.

The Correctional Service of Canada announced in February 2009 that it was shutting down the farms over two years. The government says inmates need to develop employment skills more relevant to the job market.

Security has also been an issue at the Bowden Institution in central Alberta. 

Since September 2008, at least six inmates have escaped from the minimum-security farm annex of the federal prison, about 100 kilometres north of Calgary.

Inmates work at 6 prison farms:

  • Pittsburgh Institution, Kingston, Ont.
  • Frontenac Institution, Kingston, Ont.
  • Westmorland Institution, Dorchester, N.B.
  • Rockwood Institution, Stoney Mountain, Man.
  • Riverbend Institution, near Prince Albert, Sask.
  • Bowden Institution, Innisfail, Alta.

Jeff Peters, spokesperson for Save Our Farms, was optimistic after the group's appearance before the committee last Tuesday. He believes the group, also known as Save Our Prison Farms, has a lot of support among politicians.

Prison farm supporters brought a donkey to Parliament Hill last week as part of a demonstration against the closure of the program, which started in the 1880s. Save Our Farms was launched by the men and women who work with inmates at the farms.

"The next month or two is very, very critical for us," Peters said. "We will not let this be carried out without a major fight."

The animals from the farm at Kingston's Frontenac Institution are slated to be auctioned off in June, said inmate Jason Rochon, 35. His daily tasks include replenishing the feed at the farm's dairy barn. Rochon, who is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, said he has learned how to build structures, operate heavy machinery and care for animals since starting work at the farm.

Corrections

  • Canada's Public Safety Minister is Vic Toews, not Peter Van Loan as previously reported.
    Apr 05, 2010 3:50 AM ET

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