Dorchester one of six prison farms set to close

Joan
Joan LeBlanc
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DORCHESTER, N.B. - The prison farm located at the Westmorland Institute is one of six facilities across Canada earmarked for closure.

Ottawa recently announced it intends to close the prison farms operated by Correctional Services Canada, claiming they no longer provide employable skills training to inmates because of the decline in the number of farms across the country.
In a letter to the federal minister of Public Safety, Stewart Wells, president of the National Farmer's Union, said the move is short-sighted with the decision being based on potential short-term financial gains from sale of the farm facilities.
"This wrongly implies that farming does not require a considerable amount of skill and professionalism, and also suggests that farming and food production itself is an outmoded and irrelevant activity. Both suggestions are completely false," he said.
"The government appears to have written off agriculture as a fundamental cornerstone of the Canadian economy."
Local agricultural producers are not pleased with the federal government's apparent lack of respect for their industry.
"I guess you could say it's indicative of a lack of political will to support agriculture. It's a slap in the face of the agricultural industry in Canada," Kent Coates, a vegetable producer in Point de Bute, N.B., said.
He is surprised by the timing of the federal government's recent decision to close prison farms.
"Over the past few years we've seen an increase in public support. People today are much more aware of where their food is grown and many have begun to opt for locally grown produce. So it's ironic that just as the public is becoming less ambivalent about agriculture, the federal government now decides to place less emphasis on it," Coates noted.
Dorchester Mayor Mel Goodland said he finds it hard to believe the prison farm will soon be closing for good.
"I can't imagine it's going to close. It's always been an outstanding farm over the years. It's always been a source of pride for the community and the inmates themselves that we had that farm there. And the inmates did an amazing job running it. It's going to put an awful lot of farming land out of use and that's not a good thing," he said, noting the facility, among other things, has grown wheat, vegetables and supported a large dairy herd.
Goodland said that unless there are jobs lost because of the farm closure, the community will probably see minimal affects from it.
"But there are a lot of good things being done on the prison farm and beside supplying fresh food for the institution the farm donates a lot of produce to many charities all over the Tantramar area. That in itself will be a great loss," he said.

Organizations: Westmorland Institute, Correctional Services Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa, Point de Bute Tantramar

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  • Fuzzy Bear
    January 18, 2010 - 10:37

    Whoaaaa....another brilliant suggestion by our federal government. I just don't know how these people can keep coming up with these ideas. They must have countless numbers of people in Ottawa just sitting around thinking up hair brained schemes. Maybe they have a bonus program for whoever can come up with the biggest bafoon idea of the month.
    So let me get this right....because to be perfectly honest I wasn't truly aware of the inmate farm.
    The immates have a produce farm that they operate throughout the summer where they grow crops some of which get donated to worthy causes and the remainder gets used for their own supplies. Hummmmmm.....sounds awfull sneaky and underhanded to me....insert your favorite government joke here if you have one.
    Ok now lets close 6 of the farms cause the seeds may cost taxpayers a few hundred dollars a year. Now the prisoners can sit in their cells or hang around the exercise yards all day planning heaven knows what. Simply Genius......
    Here's a suggestion for this government think tank. Maybe you can install big screen TV's in all cells..52 inch would be nice. Then we can pipe in 24 hrs of Barney or possibly Coronation Street so we can keep these guys out of trouble. I know that after 24 hrs of watching these wonderful CBC programs what immate would have the mindset to cause trouble. Also the cost of doing this would only be a few million $$. Then maybe with some poor management etc. you could mis-manage it into a billion or so.
    Come on thinkers get rid of those unruly veggies gardens and get on with this new and improved prisoner re-abilitation program schedule.
    What next Ottawa!!!