While the cows currently haven’t made the cut to return to the prison farms, the advisory committee is committed to changing the Public Safety minister’s mind.
“We’re not giving up yet. That’s the bottom line,” Jeff Peters, a member of the Prison Farm Advisory Panel, said on Friday. “We think we have a valid argument that should be looked at.”
When the prison farms closed in 2010, the cows that called Collins Bay Institution and Joyceville Institution home were purchased by the local Pen Farm Herd co-operative, of which Peters is a member. The co-op has cared for the herd and raised their offspring waiting for the day that they’d return.
Instead, the Prison Farm Advisory panel was informed in a meeting on Wednesday by Correctional Service Canada, CORCAN and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office that the priorities for the soon-to-be-reopened prison farms will be agriculture, horticulture and goat dairy farming.
“Clearly there’s a disappointment with not having dairy cows involved,” Diane Dowling, co-chair of the Prison Farm Advisory panel, told the Whig-Standard on Thursday. “We will be continuing to work with CORCAN and CSC and continuing to advocate for the dairy cows.”
The advisory panel met with Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen on Friday morning to discuss the decision further and to brainstorm ways to change the ministry’s mind. The local MP said it was very productive.
“It was more of a meeting to touch base and to get an understanding of how they wanted to pursue this,” Gerretsen said Friday afternoon. “I think the group is extremely grateful and encouraged by the fact that the government wants to, and has decided to, reopen the prison farms again. However, they are concerned that a portion of that is not dedicated to cows, specifically the dairy cows that the co-op had purchased.”
Peters said the panel will be having a meeting with the Public Safety ministry on Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re looking forward to that conversation and expressing some of our views,” Peters said. “We’re moving forward and we still think there’s an opportunity to reconsider this. We’re very pleased that the farms are being opened up, we just think that the cows were such a symbolic part of the farm and that the cows were important in the rehab of the inmates.”
Gerretsen noted that the new priorities are still just a starting point.
“This was an opportunity to get the prison farm programs up and running again and then later on, after we can assess the value, to prove that they’re worth it, then we can start to build on that,” Gerretsen said. “I really look at it as this is an opportunity to pave the way to more expansions.
“Not just prison farms in our area, but at prison farms throughout the country.”