Bowden Institution farm has year to go

Inmates working on the farm at Bowden Institution will have one more year before all agricultural operations are shut down.

Inmates working on the farm at Bowden Institution will have one more year before all agricultural operations are shut down.

Correctional Service of Canada confirmed recently it will continue to phase out six inmate-run farms, including one at the prison located between Innisfail and Bowden.

Bowden Institution has various agricultural operations, two of which have already ended. Offenders produced their final hay and barley crops last October and in December the cattle were sold and the feedlot shut down.

Christelle Chartrand, spokeswoman for CSC headquarters in Ottawa, said milk and egg production as well as composting are still ongoing.

There’s also a general maintenance crew on hand.

Those operations will be phased out by March 31, 2011.

“Everything will be gradually phased out and that goes for all our six farming programs,” Chartrand said on Friday.

As of March 23, 34 inmates out of 77 housed in the minimum-security wing were involved in the farm program. As many as 50 have worked on the farm at one time, Chartrand said.

The federal prison system was part of a Government of Canada review last year, which discovered that a low number of inmates found work in agricultural fields once they left jail.

“We wanted to align our spending so we could offer them programs that would give them marketable skills,” said Chartrand.

Correctional Service of Canada will look at whether to add programs or build on existing ones in place of the farm program.

“We’re still looking at which specific programs will be developed for each institution,” Chartrand said.

Besides farming, the federal prison’s rehabilitation program known as CORCAN also provides employment skills and training in areas like construction, manufacturing and textiles.

Nationwide, the six farms had a net annual operating cost of $4 million.

In turn, Correctional Services of Canada was buying from the farms about $4 million worth of food for inmates on a total $27-million food budget, Chartrand said.

With the loss of this form of food production, Correctional Services of Canada would seek other food supply contracts, Chartrand said.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com