The National Post's Christie Blatchford has an excellent article about the closing of the prison farms. It is well worth the read.
At the time, Ottawa’s rationale – I use the word loosely — was that agriculture has changed so much the prison model wasn’t useful any more, that the farms cost taxpayers $4-million a year (I can find no evidence the government ever proved this, and some of the farms even made money) and that the work trained inmates for nothing practical.I think I can speak to this issue with some authority because I volunteer at a women's prison in a gardening project.
It would seem to be all over but the last bit of shouting, so to speak, in court.
But aside from the closures being an illustration of just how dopey the Stephen Harper Conservatives can be on crime, I have to say how very much I think they missed the boat on this one.
I say this as one who has only ever been gentled and ennobled by my contact with animals – any animals, including cows but especially my pets – and who believes that they make us better and kinder.
Because of changes to the law – more mandatory minimum sentences and doing away with two-for-one credit for time served in pre-trial custody – Canadian federal prisons are already more crowded and are going to get only more so in the coming years.
In some minimum-security joints, for instance, inmates are already being double-or-triple bunked. In such conditions, even the illusion of any privacy is impossible and tensions naturally rise. Programming, usually minimal, will become more so. (Not too long ago, while purging my house, I donated boxes of books to a barren prison library, where the selection was old, dated and lousy to boot: Who wouldn’t want to encourage inmates to read?)
I agree that people who commit crimes should be locked up. Funnily enough, so do most of those I meet who are serving time. What I have come to realize by working with the ladies, is that they need something they can do to make them feel worthwhile. I have never had so many hard workers on a project. If they had to weed all day, they did it, without complaining. They didn't want to sit around and do nothing, and they especially enjoyed reaping the harvest of vegetables.
I also noticed that it was volunteers who came into the Institute as mentors who provided the support system for the inmates, NOT social workers. I have never had so many people so grateful for the few hours I could give them. The volunteers provide a positive link to the outside for the inmates, without any aura of authority. What I also noticed was that most of the volunteers were from religious organizations, but they did not "preach" to the inmates. I wonder where all the lefties are, if they are the saviours of the down trodden, the prison is the place they should be if they really believe what they yap about. They sure are not volunteering, guess they are too busy occupying "nowhere".
Should the prison farms have been closed? NO, NO, and NO! This was a huge misstep by the Conservatives. Any skill that the inmates can learn that gives them something to do and a sense of accomplishment is a good program. Basket weaving or knitting are better than sitting around doing nothing.
Pets are good therapy for everyone. Let the inmates train dogs for the disabled. What I hear is that it is the bureaucrats that are preventing such programs because of "allergies". BS. You hear about the high cost of keeping inmates in prison, but it's the salaries of the bureaucrats that suck up most of the money. Ten inmates get a budget of $330 a week for groceries, (you try eating healthy for $33 a week!) so any fresh grown vegetables are an added benefit for them.
Lock them up for their crimes, but give them some sort of skill while they are locked up, even if it is only milking a cow, or growing a carrot. If one inmate gets out and plants a tomato plant on their balcony so their kids can have fresh tomatoes, that's a huge positive for all of us as a society.
Don't let the lefties fool you, they are all talk and no action. If you want to improve prisons, try volunteering. Start a carpentry, welding or sewing program, you will be amazed at how rewarding it is for you and the inmates.
Life in a prison? You can improve their experience and everyone will be better for it.