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Canadian Musicians Support Prison Farms
Kingston: Farmers, gardeners, social justice advocates, faith community members, inmates have all been involved in supporting Canada’s prison farm program.
Now, musicians and poets are taking action for the cause.
Canadian Musicians Support Prison Farms, a multi-artist concert, will be held Saturday, March 20, at Sydenham Street United Church, Kingston, from 7 to 10 p.m.
Performers include Sarah Harmer, Fred Penner, Luther Wright, Brian Flynn, Kris and Dee, Open Heart Society (Chris Brown and Eric Schenkman), Maya Thau-Eleff, Open Voices Choir and other musical friends of the campaign.
“This vital rehabilitative program turns offenders into stewards. It is about communities learning to nourish themselves,” said Chris Brown of Open Heart Society. “Canadian Musicians are singing the will of the people when we ask our government to save our prison farms.”
“We really appreciate the support and energy the musicians are bringing to the campaign,” said Dianne Dowling, from the Save Our Prison Farms committee, and president of Local 316 of the National Farmers Union. “We want to increase awareness of the issues raised by the government’s plan to close the prison farms — the costs involved, the loss of effective rehabilitation and training for inmates and the loss of valuable farmland and farm infrastructure.”
A year ago, the media revealed the federal government’s plan to close Canada’s six prison farms by March 31, 2011. Two of the six are located within the city of Kingston — Frontenac Institution (at Collins Bay Penitentiary) and Pittsburgh Institution (at Joyceville Penitentiary).
“The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) originally argued that the program was being shut down because it costs $4 million annually and doesn’t teach inmates relevant skills,” said Andrew McCann, of Urban Agriculture Kingston. “We started by questioning their numbers and asserting that farming fosters exactly the responsibility, teamwork and hands on aptitudes that can serve offenders well in a variety of employment streams. However, it has become clear that the value of the farms isn’t really being considered at all."
“Even before the closure was revealed, CSC was shutting down parts of the farm program,” said Bridget Doherty, of the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation office of the Sisters of Providence. “We are very concerned about the auction of the Frontenac Pen Farm Holstein herd, scheduled for June this year. It is urgent that we get the message to the federal government that the prison farm closures don't make sense to Canadians, and that super-prisons do not give us safer communities.”
“This concert is for everyone who cares about inmate rehabilitation, public safety and sensible government policy,” said Jeff Peters, of the Frontenac Cattleman’s Association.
Tickets for the concert are $15 ($5 for unemployed and underemployed people) and are available at Tara Foods, Renaissance Music, Brian’s Record Option and Local Family Farms in Verona. A limited number will be sold at the door.
Media photo/video advance opportunity during soundcheck at 4 p.m.
For more information, contact:
Dianne Dowling, National Farmers Union Local 316, President
(613) 546-0869, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew McCann, Urban Agriculture Kingston
(613) 767-4127, email@example.com