A BRIEF HISTORY
In 2010-2011, Canada’s prison farms were dismantled under the Harper Conservative government’s “Tough on Crime” reforms. The Minister of Public Safety and Correctional Service of Canada said the farms were not financially sustainable and “did not reflect labour market demands of today and of the future.”
In 2016-2018, the process began to restore prison farms under the Trudeau Liberal government, beginning in Kingston Ontario. The Minister of Public Safety and Correctional Service of Canada promised “the best possible model” for new modern farms that “will build essential skills for employment.”
The former prison farms produced food for prisoners (dairy, meat, eggs) including an abattoir that remains in operation. The new model, announced in 2018 to be implemented over five years, will be the commercial production of goat milk on an industrial scale. Prisoners will factory farm goats to produce infant formula for the Chinese market.
Evolve Our Prison Farms has been active since 2016 advocating an alternative, ethical, and environmentally friendly prison farm program through plant-based agriculture and animal-assisted therapy.
In 2021, following the publication of the academic report “Canada’s proposed prison farm program: Why it won’t work and what would work better,” the Correctional Service of Canada announced a “temporary pause” of its industrial goat farm plans. This presents an opportunity to re-evaluate and transition Canada’s prison farms.
Message from our Founder (2017)
Message from David Suzuki (2019)
Examples of successful programs:
Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm provides a haven for animals where inmates are taught how to care for and care about animals in the hopes they will carry that lesson on in their lives once they are released from jail.
Prisoners in the UK care for goats as part of NHS animal therapy sessions to teach them to “take responsibility for others” and to promote “positive social activity”.
Organic gardening at HMP Rye Hill in England “helps inmates kick drug addiction” and “creates a space that is beautiful, peaceful, and conducive to reflection.”
Pê Sâkâstêw Healing Lodge in Alberta produces thousands of kilograms of vegetables grown and harvested by inmates for the local food bank to help “break that cycle of poverty.”
Planting Justice is a grassroots organization with a mission to empower people impacted by mass incarceration with the skills and resources to cultivate food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing.
Farm and Rehabilitation Meals (FARM) is a project that hires inmates as farmers, teaches them sustainable agriculture practices and puts produce on inmates’ cafeteria tables.