An Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper

The Union of Solicitor General Employees is seriously calling into question your government’s decision to close Canada’s six prison farms. We believe this decision is not in the best interest of the farm program participants, nor in the best interest of the Canadian public.

Closing the prison farms will negatively impact everyone.

The produce, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, milk and grains raised by the inmate farmers provide quite a bit of food to their parent prison populations. Food products now provided by the farm program would need to be purchased. The amount of money involved in this type of purchase would bring the transaction under NAFTA regulations , which means the food would be provided by the lowest bidder. It would not be a question of quality, nor of keeping Canadians employed, but rather saving a few dollars by going down South.

The prison farms also have an impact on their local communities. Local businesses provide equipment to the farms. The farms contribute any surplus to local foodbanks and charities, giving back to their communities.

The close contact of inmates and animals is shown to be of therapeutic benefit to the inmates. More and more studies are finding that animal-assisted therapy is becoming an important factor in preventing recidivism and helping with anger-management problems. This can ensure that inmates are being properly prepared for their release and their eventual reintegration into society.

Your government claims that the costs associated with running the prison farms amounts to $4 million per year. We have repeatedly requested a forensic audit be performed, but your government refuses to acknowledge the request. With this evident lack of transparency, we cannot help but wonder what is being hidden. Or is it simply an accounting exercise that is trying to take out a successful program to shuffle money away and put it towards other pet projects?

We would invite yourself and any other parliamentarian to actually go to one of the prison farms and tour them. The inmates are quite proud of the work they perform and would welcome the chance to show you their successes.

Your government claims to be tough on crime, but there also needs to be a balance for those who are going through the system. The prison farms allow the inmates a second chance for rehabilitation.

We ask that you reverse your government’s decision to close the prison farms and maintain our Canadian values of compassion and rehabilitation.

John Edmunds
National President,
The Union of Solicitor General Employees