Proposed prison gets more attention

1
296

In case you think that the issue of the proposed prison for Kemptville is fading from the public conversation, think again. In the past week or two, two influential articles have appeared in major newspapers calling on the Ford government to rethink the entire project and ensure that the rapidly-shrinking stock of Ontario farmland is not reduced further by losing the prison lands. They cite the statistics showing how valuable good quality farm land is, and the land being taken for the prison is of a very high quality, Class 2.

Another critic to speak out recently is Amanda Wilson, an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Innovation at Saint Paul University. In an op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen on March 30, entitled “Trading public farmland in Kemptville for a new prison is the wrong move”, she not only questioned the location of the proposed prison, but whether it needed to be built at all.

“At issue is not just that this is a ridiculous site on which to build a prison, but whether a new prison should be built at all. The pandemic showed us that it is possible to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals through early release. According to Statistics Canada, provincial institutions reduced their populations by an average 25% between February and April of 2020. The funds earmarked for the Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex would be far better spent on policies and programs that invest in community supports and services in order to limit the demand for prisons in the future.”

It is significant that opposition to the proposed prison comes, not just from local groups and individuals in North Grenville, but more and more experts in the field of agriculture and agri-business are speaking out as well, and from a position of real knowledge and credibility. Amanda Wilson’s summing up of the issue is very direct and relevant: “At a time when there are growing calls to rethink our prison systems, trading farmlands for cages is the wrong move. While we might think of farming as old-fashioned, it is prisons that should be obsolete.”

While these voices of opposition grow, Minister Steve Clark continues to put forward claims that have been questioned, to say the least, by groups like CAPP and JOG. In a radio interview on March 31, he was asked about the issue and once again claimed that there would be “good paying jobs in the community”. He stated that the infrastructure costs would be paid for by the Province, and that he is completely committed to ensure that all surplus lands, not needed for the prison itself, would be transferred to the Municipality.

It seems that the past debates and arguments have not changed the original rationale for the prison in the minds of the provincial government. Whether or not residents are tired of the continuing debate over the prison, it will continue and will be a major issue in the upcoming provincial election, especially when the Ontario Liberals have come out publicly to call for a moratorium on the whole project until genuine consultations take place with the community and local interests.

1 COMMENT

  1. Of course by proposing to solve the problem of expensive housing by building lots of “middle class” (=1950s-style suburban) houses, the provincial government has dedicated itself to the destruction of both farmland & natural habitats….

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here