Bowden prison farm to close

The Town of Innisfail is looking for a new home for its sewage sludge and yard waste as Bowden Institution continues to shut down its farm operation.

The Town of Innisfail is looking for a new home for its sewage sludge and yard waste as Bowden Institution continues to shut down its farm operation.

“We’re literally high and dry at the moment,” said Innisfail Mayor Ken Graham.

The town has been regularly trucking its yard waste to Bowden Institution’s compost facility. Twice a year, sludge from the town’s three sewage lagoons is hauled to the prison farm complex. The next trip was to be in the spring.

But the prison is expected to close the doors on the compost facility as part of a Corrections Canada plan to phase out its six prison farm operations across Canada by March 2011.

Innisfail is now searching for a new place to take its waste.

Graham is optimistic the town will find a solution. “We’ll work something out.”

A regional wastewater line that will connect Innisfail to Red Deer’s treatment plant could take some of the pressure off local wastewater treatment operations.

Corrections Service of Canada spokeswoman Christa McGregor said the prison will continue taking compost until the end of March, and the operation will be completely shut down next fall. The farm operations were run by CORCAN, a rehabilitation program run by Corrections Canada.

The government decided to close the prison farms after a 2008 strategic review of the program that cost $4 million annually.

The farms were meant to teach inmates useful job skills but the strategic review found relatively few offenders were able to apply their farm skills in the workplace, said McGregor.

“While offenders were learning farming skills, as well as accountability and work ethic, relatively few offenders were finding work in this area once released in the community.

“The farm operations are an employment program. As Correctional Service of Canada, we need to be providing offenders with marketable employment skills with the employment realities they face when they are released into the community.”

Most inmates head to urban centres on release, where they need jobs offering full-time employment, she said.

Besides the compost facility, Bowden farm inmates did equipment maintenance, ran a feedlot and some field crop production. “They would grow mostly hay and sometimes a little barley, too.”

About 40 inmates and five staff work on the farm.

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