Pubdate: Sat, 01 Jan 2011
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2011 The Toronto Star
Author: Emile Therien


A Public Safety Committee report that studies mental health and
addictions in prisons recommends the federal government restore its
prison farm program to help inmates with rehabilitation. The Mental
Health and Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Federal Correctional
System report was presented to the House of Commons on Dec. 14.

No logical explanation or reason has ever been given by this
government to justify the closing of the six prison farms across the
country. And many of the statements made by government spokespersons,
including Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, with regard to shutting
down this "rehabilitation" program, which dated back to the 1880s,
begged scrutiny and clarification. No audit or evaluation had ever
been conducted as to the viability, financial and otherwise, of these
farms. That said, Corrections Canada acknowledged that this program
benefited the inmates who participated in it.

A case in point: According to an expert source, the Frontenac
Institution farm was recognized as having a dairy herd that ranked
among the best in Ontario. That same farm, through its abattoir,
serviced more than 300 local farmers, processing 60 animals each week,
which supplied, in turn, 150 local butcher shops. In total, the six
prison farms produced almost $3 million of product each year, which
was bought by the Correctional Service of Canada for distribution to
its institutions.

Regarding the current state of incarceration in this country, the
minister of public safety should refer to the 2005/06 report of
Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers, the government's independent
prisons investigator. He says program shortages are so severe they
have become a threat to public safety: "Too many offenders spend their
time in prison without getting the correctional programs they need,"
the report says. "The result is ongoing violence and despair on the
inside and increased risk of individuals reoffending once released."

This is, in 2010, still a very real problem. Rehabilitation is hardly
a priority. And this government eliminated a program that worked.
First things first, Mr. Minister. Fix this problem. Listen to the

Or is this another case of this government shamelessly plodding along,
cheered on by its core political base led by the public safety
minister and the justice minister, in perpetuating myths that contrary
to the facts and the record, crime is out of control in this country
and "certain types of criminals cannot be rehabilitated." Simply
stoking the ideological fires to justify its tough-on-crime policies -
and get re-elected. Crime as politics with no financial or social
accountability. Political opportunism at its worst. Go figure.

Emile Therien, Public Health & Safety Advocate, Volunteer, John Howard
Society, Ottawa
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