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Advisory panel established to consider reopening some Ontario prison farms

First meeting is scheduled to take place in June

By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content

An advisory panel created by Correctional Service Canada (CSC) will provide advice about potentially reopening prison farms at the Collins Bay and Joyceville facilities in Kingston, Ontario.

The eight-member panel includes representatives from the National Farmers Union, Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul the John Howard Society of Canada and Red Squirrel Conservation Services.

The diverse backgrounds of the panel members will make for good discussions, says the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Collins Bay Institution.
Wikipedia photo

"I am very pleased that we have established this advisory panel to help us determine the best way ahead for re-establishing penitentiary farms,” Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, said in a May 11 release. “I am committed to implementing evidence-based practices and policies that promote public safety and the safe reintegration of offenders.”

The federal Conservative government closed the farms in 2010, along with ones in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Inmates performed a variety of duties, including feeding cattle, planting and harvesting crops, and operating milking machinery.

The decision to close the prison farms resulted in protests outside of the facilities.

In June 2016, CSC launched a feasibility study to review the decision. More than 300 people attended town hall meetings in July and August, and the public provided about 6,000 responses online.

The results of the study were released in November 2016. They included:

  • Closing the farms was a mistake,
  • Agricultural labour generally rehabilitates offenders,
  • Working with animals rehabilitates offenders, and
  • The farms prepare inmates for employment generally, not just in the agri-food sector.

If the farms reopen, they would be run by CORCAN, a rehabilitation program of CSC that provides offenders with employment skills and training.

“Helping people connect with important and needed rural skills offered by prison farms only serves the community interest by reintegrating citizens as meaningful contributors,” Emery Huszka, president of National Farmers Union’s Ontario branch, said in a May 11 statement. “Agriculture not only feeds all eaters; it is the backbone of our social fabric where we learn to all pitch in for a greater good.”

The panel’s first meeting is scheduled for June 2017.

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