Saving Canada’s Prison Farms
I was thrilled to get the message from Helen Forsey below protesting the closure and sale of Canada’s six prison farms. This issue has been nagging at me for months, and I haven’t had time to really think about it. But from every point of view — money, correctional practices, food policy, simple humanity, you name it — selling the prison farms is a colossally dumb idea that flies right in the face of the public’s growing engagement with food. We’re planning a whole set of interviews on The Green Interview about food, farming and fishing. Food is very much an environmental issue, and Ottawa is racing flat-out in the wrong direction.
I can’t imagine anything better for prisoners than to have some creative and meaningful work to do — and to help feed
themselves. In Thunder Bay, where I recently visited, the local slammer has a greenhouse, where prisoners start plants that are then transplanted into community gardens. What’s more, prisoners actually use their day passes to work in the community gardens, side by side with the residents. What a great way to give them a stake, and some links, in the community they’ll eventually re-enter.
What on earth is the government thinking?
From: "Helen Forsey" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: June 7, 2010 2:01:47 PM ADT
To: "Me" <email@example.com>
Subject: Please – Urgent call to save prison farms
I drove all the way to Kingston yesterday to participate in a rally and march to try to stop the Harper government from dismantling Canada’s six prison farms, which provide food, employment and rehabilitation
training to prisoners as well as important services to farmers, food banks and local communities in Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. (See www.saveourprisonfarms.ca andwww.saveourfarms.ca.)
(Please excuse the inevitable duplication here, I know a number of you are very much involved already – as I should have been before now!)
Margaret Atwood was one of the speakers at the rally. She was, of course, trenchant and inspiring. Then the huge crowd walked with her and the organizers to the Correctional Services headquarters to post an action
plan for the prison farms on the door there. It was a grand event, energizing and hopeful.
But the reason it had to happen is absolutely infuriating. For months now the Harper government has been proceeding with its plans to close down these farms and sell off their assets, including the prize dairy herd from the Pittsburgh (Joyceville) Institution. The sale of that herd is scheduled for just two weeks from today – June 21st. The planned closires are part of an overall program which includes the building of super-prisons, American-style – likely on the agricultural land the farms now occupy.
The government’s insistence (up to now) on destroying them makes no sense even in Harper’s own narrow terms of votes and money. This is not a minority issue – some 90% of Canadians support the prison farms. Nor is it
a question of saving taxpayers’ money – of the $4 million the government says it would save, it would have to spend one million just to replace the milk, never mind other products; and this is the gang that is saying $1 billion is OK to spend hosting the G-20!
So please, do take a few minutes to add your voice to the chorus demanding the reversal of this utterly senseless and destructive Harper policy. Lots of good information, model letters, petition, etc. are to be found at the websites noted above – www.saveourprisonfarms.ca (the prison farms coalition’s website) and www.saveourfarms.ca, (the latter sponsored by the Union of Solicitor General Employees (USGE/PSAC).
Even if you don’t have time to check the websites, please do whatever you can of the following:
a.. Write or call Prime Minister Stephen Harper toll-free at 1-866-599-4999 (ask for the Office of the Prime Minister) or f: 1-613-941-6900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
a.. Send a handwritten letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews 8-227 Main Street, Steinbach. Manitoba, R5G 1Y7, or contact him at p:(204) 326-9889, f:(204) 346-9874, email@example.com
a.. Write or call Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff at toll-free 1-866-599-4999 (ask for the Liberal Leader’s Office) or f: 1-613-947-0310 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
a.. Write or call NDP Leader Jack Layton at 613-947-0867 or f: 613-947-0868 or e-mail email@example.com
a.. Write or call Green Party Leader Elizabeth May at 1-866-868-3447 or f: 613-482-4632 or firstname.lastname@example.org
a.. write or call your own MP.
a.. Sign the e-petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/prisonfarms/index.html
And please forward this on right away to your networks. I’ve been slow to act on this, but now sure is the time. We might even win this one.