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Kingston’s prison farms officially open once again

WATCH: Officials received a tour of the new prison farms and their wildlife at the Collins Bay institution in Kingston.

Federal officials gathered outside the Collins Bay Institution on Thursday to announce the re-opening of the prison farms that have been closed for nearly a decade.

The herd and prison farm program that was shuttered by the former Harper government almost a decade ago is now back in business.

On thursday, federal officials held a news conference and a media tour at Collins Bay to show off the new operation.

“This new penitentiary farm program model incorporates various types of  farming operations to provide a diverse range reflective of the broader farming community,” said Mark Gerretsen, MP for Kingston and the Islands, “including both plant based and livestock models.”

READ MORE: More than 30 dairy cows now part of the prison farm program in Kingston

The Save our Prison Farms campaign led the lengthy battle in order to get Corrections Canada back into the agricultural business.

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The Liberal government is investing a total of $4.3 million over five years for renovations, farm repairs and planting crops.

WATCH: (June 7, 2019) Prison farm supporter worries new farms may exploit inmates

Prison farm supporter worries new farms may exploit inmates
Prison farm supporter worries new farms may exploit inmates

Prison farm advocate Jeff Peters has worked closely with the six cows, all with lineage to the original prison-herd from 2009. Peters believes they will play an important role in inmate rehabilitation.

“The cows have taught inmates how to respect another living thing, and in that way they learn to respect themselves,” Peters explained.

“There’s a waiting list to get involved in this program and I think that’s amazing,” said Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Karen McCrimmon.

“If we have a program that offenders really want to participate in, it’s going to be a success. ”

READ MORE: Kingston community group disappointed cows not ‘coming home’ to Kingston’s prison farms

But not everyone thinks the new business model will benefit the inmates or the farm animals. ‘Evolve Our Prison Farms’ questions the use of goat’s milk to supply the new Chinese-based infant formula plant in Kingston.

“We’re standing up for justice, democracy and local food security,” says Calvin Neufeld with Evolve Our Prison Farms, “and we are seeing none of that come back with the new prison farm program.”

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However, Gerretsen says that the prison farm program has proven to lower the rates of re-offending, which is the most important variable in this program.

“Offenders involved in Corcan training programs acquire skills that increase their opportunities to obtain employment when they return to the community,” says Gerretsen.