Kingston, Ontario prison farms to be re-opened - Cowsmo

Kingston, Ontario prison farms to be re-opened

While it was hard to top last week’s third crossing funding announcement, the federal government came close on Tuesday afternoon.

The Liberal government committed $4.3 million over five years to reopen the prison farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay institutions.

The farms are to be run by a Correctional Service Canada rehabilitation agency. The farms were closed by the Conservative government in 2010.

“It’s great, I was not expecting this,” Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen said Tuesday afternoon. “I was lobbying for this quite hard in the fall, during pre-budget consultations, but you lobby for stuff all the time that never happens.”

Last Wednesday, Gerretsen announced the federal government’s commitment of up to $60 million for the construction of a new bridge across the Cataraqui River. It was the third and final piece of funding needed before the project could go forward into the detailed design phase before construction begins next year.

Gerretsen was quick to point out that while he was able to deliver good news about both the third crossing and prison farms, other people have worked for years to secure funding for both.

“I hope that they genuinely feel as if they are being rewarded for their advocacy because it’s not that often that you see things like this happen,” he said.

Gerretsen said the decision to reopen the farms was the government’s response to public opinion that the firms played a valuable role in the corrections system.

Members of the group that has, since the closure of the prison farms was announced, fought to have them reopened were celebrating the announcement.

“We’re very happy to have the announcement that they are funding the reopening of the farms,” Dianne Dowling of Restore our Prison Farms said. “We’ve had positive signals from the Ministry of Public Safety and the prime minister even last fall in questions referring to prison farms. But until it’s written out in the budget you can’t consider it a solid commitment.”

The group protested the farms’ closure and has been holding vigils in front of Collins Bay Institution marking the closure.

“We started fighting to try and save the prison farms when they were still open in the spring of 2009, so it’s been about a nine-year fight for us to try and save the prison farms and then to have been restored,” she said.

“I think there is a lot of work ahead of us to make good use of the money that has been allotted to restore as much of the programming as possible.”

Dowling said the campaign to restore the prison farms was successful because of broad support across the community.

Collins Bay and Joyceville were among about a half-dozen prison farms across the country closed by the previous government. Dowling said about 30 dairy cows descended from the original Collins Bay herd are still available to be purchased by the government to start to rebuild the prison herd.



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