Canada Corrections, in its ‘infinte wisdom,’ has decided to close Canada’s prison farms. Their reason? Apparently the farms cost too much to maintain and very few prisoners who worked on the farms went on to get jobs in agricultural. Sadly, the government’s short-sighted view will compromise the ability of Corrections Canada to rehabilitate inmates.

Working in agricultural is about so much more than getting a job out of prison. Some of these farms had livestock. Anyone who has been around farm animals in any capacity would know the healing power of animals. Looking after the animals gives people a sense of responsibility and pride in their accomplishments. They would need to approach the work calmly and kindly to be effective. Inmates would be able to see the effects of their behaviour on other live beings – this is serious rehabilitation that could not be replicated. Forming caring relationships, even with animals is a key element in any rehabilitation.

Growing crops may not seem like a skill set needed in our technical society. Starting something, setting goals and seeing something through to the finish are invaluable, transferable skills. Many people who commit crimes do so because either they do not have other skills or they do not believe that they do. Agriculture is hard work. Inmates who have been successful doing hard work have a much better chance at integrating into back into society.

Corrections Canada is responsible for incarcerating and rehabilitating convicted criminals. While the prison farms may not have turned a profit, they certainly provided locally grown food and rehabilitation opportunities to inmates. Providing skills and a sense of pride and accomplishment gives a great deal to the inmates. In doing their work on the farms they would learn patience and perseverance. They would need to work together so that the farm was both safe and successful. The government has yet to announce a replacement for the prison farms beyond ‘decommissioning’ the farms. What a sad outcome.

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