Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Exactly the WRONG choice!

Prisons everywhere, especially the US, should be adopting farm and garden training programs for all inmates. They have a long track record of low recidivism rates and prisoners become better people through interaction with plants and soil.

Canada Set to Close Important Asset: its Prison Farms

In February 2009, Canada’s Public Safety Minister and the country’s Correctional Service announced a planned closure of all six of the prison farms owned by the people of Canada and operated by CORCAN - the branch of the Correctional Service that operates the farm rehabilitation programs which also provide employment training to inmates. The excellent syndicated Canadian radio show Deconstructing Dinner, which covers the local food movement, detailed all of this in its July 2nd show, and it’s a fascinating listen. The proposed closure is a move that’s spawned a national grassroots movement to block the action, Save Our Farms.

Why close the farms, Mr. Minister?
Because, he explains, they’ve lost $4 million (doesn’t that sound like the cost of a training program, though?) and, worse, prison farms are training people in skills that are 50 years behind the times - growing food by hand, milking cows, and such. This guy apparently has no idea what’s on the horizon for food production, and prefers the model with the hydroponic aquabots tending to seas of floating produce or something.

Never mind that Canada’s prison farm infrastructures are often relied on by small private farms nearby, that they supply cheap fresh food to large institutions, and the fact that the inmates interviewed in the story told of enjoying the farm work and testified to its great therapeutic effects and a desire to continue this work after release. Add to the picture Canada’s farm succession problems and its burgeoning local agriculture revival and one would seem to be mad to close these farms. The one in Kingston, Ontario, is likely the
largest urban farm in Canada, a last reservoir of open land in a sprawling city.

Where the prisons plan to get their fresh food from post-CORCAN is my question, and rumors abound that the farms will either be privatized or worse, sold for development at a profit. But what a loss that would be: Canada’s prison farms sit on some of the most desirable agricultural land in their regions and many are close to urban areas. And there’s an ironic twist: Canada’s prison farms are an international model and have been recently toured by delegations from Japan, Russia, and New Zealand, the latter hoping to take its own prison farms organic.

See also:
Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime by Kenneth I. Helphand
Doing Time in the Garden: Life Lessons through Prison Horticulture by James Jiler

No comments:

Post a Comment