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Two Ontario prison farms reopening

Two Ontario prison farms reopening

The farms are expected to be fully operational within five years

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The federal government is reopening two farms at provincial penitentiaries.

The prison farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay institutions will reopen next spring, Mark Holland, secretary to Ralph Goodale, Canada’s public safety minister, announced yesterday.

The Government included $4.3-million worth of funding for the farms in its federal budget announcement and expects them to be fully operational within five years.

“The prison farms are a valuable program that promotes rehabilitation, empathy and skills training, which reduces reoffending and helps makes our communities safer,” Holland said in a release yesterday.

The local community played a pivotal role in re-establishing the prison farms.

More than 6,000 people responded to online government consultations.

A group of local farmers formed the Pen Farm Herd Co-op and bought 23 animals after the federal Conservatives closed the prisons in 2009.

And members of the co-op and local ag community formed Save Our Prison Farms, a group advocating for the reopening of the facilities.

The groups held small ceremonies on Monday evening to support the farms. Some members even served a night in prison in August of 2009 for blocking trucks from taking the animals away from the farms.

“If you fight long enough and you have a following of people that are dedicated to the cause, you will win,” Jeff Peters, a producer from Kingston and one of those who faced the brief jail sentence, told Global News yesterday.

Local farmers were also part of a farm advisory panel, which provided advice about the project.

“This announcement comes after years of dedication by hundreds of citizens to the cause of restoring the prison farms with a diverse program of crops and livestock,” Dianne Dowling, co-chair of the panel, said in a statement yesterday.

“We have always been convinced that the farms offered valuable employment and rehabilitation opportunities for offenders and contributed to their successful reintegration into the community.”

Former inmates are also pleased about the farm’s reopening.

Shaun Shannon served time at the Frontenac Institution and worked on the prison’s farm.

Spending time with the livestock had a profound impact on his life, he said.

“Before I went to Frontenac, I was broken and it fixed me,” he told Global News. “You get a connection with the animals, and you learn there’s other things worthwhile out there and you learn responsibility.”

The first steps in reopening the farms include renovations. Inmates will participate in this work. The farms will also bring in dairy goats and cows.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario granted the prison farms programs with enough quota for about 40 dairy cows. About 500 goats will live on the farms as well.

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