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Community Soapbox: Dear Prison Farm Supporters

Today is Prisoners’ Justice Day, which is a day of mourning, remembrance, advocacy and protest for those who’ve lost their lives while serving their sentences. With that in mind, yesterday’s scene involving citizens from all walks of life attempting to block the removal of the remaining livestock from the Collin’s Bay institution seems fitting. With 15 people arrested ranging from a 14 year old girl to an 87 year old grandmother, the protester’s efforts were certainly not in vain. The story gained national media attention throughout the day, and as illustrated by various opinion polls, support for our Prison Farms is higher than we originally measured.

I’ve provided my thoughts on this issue in the past, and so, in light of yesterday’s events I thought it best to hear from one of the folks who was arrested during the protest.  The following letter was published on Save Our Prison Farms, and while it provides insight into yesterday’s democracy in action, it also offers inspiration regarding the long road ahead.

Dear Prison Farm Campaign Supporters,

My name is Patrick Thompson, and I am proud to count myself as one of those arrested today.

Today was a great day for me. Yes, the cows are gone, which is an incalculable loss, but there was a sense of community and purpose that I have never felt. Thank you all for that. I was moved to tears by Dianne Dowling’s speech. Tears for the realization that this is not the country that we have been taught we live in, and that solidified my commitment to become “unlawful”. Yesterday singing O Canada, I felt that “we stand on guard for thee”, means us, citizens, stand guard. Today I am proud to say we did stand on guard for our democracy.

Sitting in jail, looking around at my fellow patriots, was incredible and peaceful. Everyone seemed tranquil, and it is my perspective that it is because everyone felt 100% just in their actions. We have upcoming legal concerns to deal with now, but that feels of little consequence, with such a strong sense of purpose. It is imperative for people to know, we still have a friend continuing the fight in detention. Unwilling to accept unjust conditions of bail from the crown, he has decided to forgo food and remain. Truly he is a giant among us.

And just as he continues the fight, so must we. If this government doesn’t want prison farms, then we don’t want them. We must stay motivated and engaged. We must ensure this government never obtains a majority. We must ensure whoever comes after this regime remains accountable, transparent, and attentive to the peoples will. It is not an easy road ahead, but we can rebuild prison farms, we can reclaim our inherent control of democracy.

Please, do not be dismayed by the loss of the cows. This movement is vibrant, strong and just. I cannot express my appreciation and gratitude for the tireless work the organizers of this campaign, and the thousands of supporters. We have made a difference, and we will not stop the endless journey towards a more perfect society.

P.S. I apologize for rambling and/or grammatical errors. I’ve been in prison for the last 15 hours and am a little tired.

Please drop off a few comments below regarding your thoughts on yesterday’s events.
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Submitted to Kingstonist’s Community Soapbox by: Patrick Thompson.

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13 thoughts on “Community Soapbox: Dear Prison Farm Supporters

  • August 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm
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    Well done Patrick! Thank you to you and all the prison farm supporters for you actions and standing up for what is right, it sure is better than falling for anything. Kudos!

    Rob Matheson
    Mayoral Cadidate
    City of Kingston

  • August 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm
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    I want to echo the sentiments expressed above by Rob. My sincere thanks goes out to those who were arrested, the organizers, protesters and supporters both locally and across Canada. I am really struggling to find the silver lining in all of this, and I am fearful for what the future has in store for the prison farm land. While it's easy to feel powerless in all of this, I also see a glimmer of hope if supporters can rally and make this an election issue next time around.

  • August 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm
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    Cheers to Patrick and the hundreds of other people so dedicated to this cause. When I came upon the protesters and the cattle transport trucks stuck at Bath & Centennial on Sunday evening, I thought: This is democracy at work and it is beautiful.
    What came to pass on Monday breaks my heart. I can only hope that someone out there is listening to the voices that are speaking so loudly in this city.

  • August 10, 2010 at 11:56 pm
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    My brother Patrick was the person who originally made me aware of this issue. It is a hot button issue for many reasons: The rehabilitation of prisoners, the value of arable land and it's misuse, and privatization of correctional facilities in Canada. it is an issue that, despite overwhelming support from the population, is ignored by our elected government. It is a shame that in an effort to be heard conscientious citizens had to sacrifice their freedom (even if for only 15 hours).
    Yesterday was a long day for our family, waiting to hear if Patrick was safe, wondering where he was. No mother expects her son to go to jail, but no mother was prouder than ours of her son's stand on Monday. Patrick we are proud and humbled by your resolve and the resolve of all the protestors on Sunday and Monday.
    It is more important now than ever to remain relentless and dedicated, demanding to be heard by OUR ELECTED government. If they don't listen now, and they don't listen tomorrow, then let them hear us at the polling stations.

    • August 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm
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      I agree,we need to get rid of Dictator Harper and restore Democracy!
      We need to return to real debate,not only in the House of Commons ,but within the Conservative Party of Canada.
      Elected CPC MP's need to stand up to King Harper & represent their Constituents NOW!

  • August 11, 2010 at 7:44 am
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    I am Patrick's mother and as my daughter said, at this moment I could not be prouder of my son, nor more disappointed in our government.
    We keep hearing that the program costs $ 4,000,000.00 a year to fund, how much are the programs they are going to replace it with going to cost? We have not heard any of those figures yet. How much is the cost to replace the food products used from the farm in the prison system? How much is the loss to the local food banks?
    We keep hearing that the prisoners gain no employable abilities in the farm program. We now know that accountability is not a requirement to become the government of Canada but as far as I know it is a requirement for all other jobs in Canada. How about compassion and dedication. Prisoners don't get to prorogue their job but get up at 4am to milk the cows.

    What is going to happen to the farmland? Is a super prison going to be built there or is the government going to sell it for commercial use?

    Protesters, you have my support. Keep up the good fight.

  • August 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm
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    It's absolutely amazing what the organizers, protesters and supporters were able to accomplish. While it only delayed the inevitable moving of the cows toward auction it absolutely raised the profile of the issue and highlighted the glaring mistakes in this decision that the government is making.

    4$ million spent for the rehabilitation of the prisoners works out to about 13,350$ per prisoner working on the farm for the year. Given that the farms also produced in excess of 7$ million in usable food for the prisons and the surrounding community that will now have to be replaced the true error of this decision becomes obvious.

    The Minister, Vic Toews, has been misleading the public by misrepresenting the numbers of inmates who use their training learned on the prison farms after incarceration. The statistics of 1% counts only the inmates who work in agriculture proper upon release while the skills learned from the prison farms include operating large machinery, repair and maintenance work on equipment; notwithstanding learning integration into a team effort, responsibility for self and for the animals and punctuality which is learn by all inmates in rehabilitative programs.

    The government has been very careful to make no statements regarding any of the truly important points of this debate. A talent which they possess in excess.

    • August 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm
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      Fantastic comment. Thanks you very much for delving into the math behind this issue. Time and again we've been fed the $4 million price tag line, while yours is the first to compare the other, obviously relevant numbers in this equation.

      • August 11, 2010 at 6:40 pm
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        Harvey, I'm horrified that we're only finding out now that these were profitable farm operations! What kind of idiot shuts that down? I guess they're in the way of the coming superprisons, but the national media really missed the boat on this. Huge.

    • March 3, 2011 at 8:53 pm
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      Please provide the source for this direct cost. We need proof before we start cutting and pasting this number.

      • March 4, 2011 at 8:51 am
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        I assume you're referring to the $4 million figure? I'm not sure you'll find substantiation anywhere, it was simply the line fed by those who wanted to close the farm down. Correct me if I'm wrong. Save Our Prisom Farms lists the figure with the disclaimer that it is unsupported.

  • August 11, 2010 at 10:34 pm
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    We've mixed up some numbers here…

    "Latest figures show the farms generated revenues of $7.5 million, but had expenses of $11.6 million, for a loss of $4.1 million." .

    Of course if you factor in the cost of the land in lieu of selling some of it, leasing it or using it for expansion instead of acquiring more ti would be quite a bit worse

    • August 14, 2010 at 3:07 pm
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      The expenses were 11.6$ million, but the cost to the taxpayer was not. Due to the value placed on the goods that were being produced by the farms there were only a cost of 4.1$ million. Further, the most recent numbers for the farms were from 2007-2008 as the government refused to release numbers from 2008-2009 which would have reflected a series of cost cutting measure that had been put in place in 2006 to be gradually rolled out over the course of those three years. It's entirely possible that the 2008-2009 numbers would have shown a very different picture.

      Also, let us not forget that the prison farms fell under the banner of Corcan, the CSC's rehabilitation and training wing, which in 2007-2008 (the last year for which there are numbers) made an overall surplus of 70.6$ million – that's even after absorbing the 4$ million "loss" from the prison farms. Thus the actual cost to taxpayers of the prison farms was 0$ because Corcan is a self-sustaining entity whose annual surplus is turned back over to the rehabilitation programs year over year.

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