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A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals


Selections From The Ark Number 213 - Winter 2009


This year, the award for Wildlife in Prisons was offered by both the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals and Catholic Concern for Animals. This joint approach enabled several awards to be made covering different categories of prisons as well as having an overall winner. This year’s overall winner was Kirkham Open Prison – where there is so much that is good about this project it is difficult to know where to start.

The Awards Ceremony was held in the chapel and the awards were presented by Bishop James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool. Other speakers included the Governor of Kirkham, John Hewitson; Monsignor Malachy Keegan, Senior RC Chaplain; and staff and prisoners working on the project.

While Kirkham was the overall winner of the Prisons Wildlife Award, other prisons were honoured for their contributions. They were, Woodhill (high security) prison, Highly Commended for a gardening and wildlife project with young offenders; Maidstone (closed) prison, Commended for their organic allotments within the prison grounds; and finally, North Sea Camp (an open prison) which was also Commended on their project with livestock, sites of Special Interest and a nature reserve with wading birds and other species.

It is obvious from entering Kirkham prison that this is a place where rehabilitation is at the heart of the establishment. Many of the prisoners are fully involved in the work of the conservation area and the enthusiasm of both the staff and the prisoners is infectious.

These men may well return to a different and urban environment and the cynic might ask, what is the value and gain for the men working on this project after they are discharged? Well, the men will tell you, as they explained, that it gives them time out from their previous lives to think about others, to think about animals, and to think about the world around them. Not so easy to do on a city housing estate.

The project demands a proper attitude to work, a routine, a time to get some qualifications and to live a life which, in many ways, challenges their offending behaviour. The men are learning to put their time to good use and in turn become more employable on discharge.

Kirkham open prison was a former RAF camp of about 120 acres of which 25 acres is designated as a Conservation Area where wildlife thrive in well-managed woodland, paths, and ponds. The Project works with the RSPB and a recent survey identified 30 bird species of which nine species are on the RSPB endangered list. In addition there is an abundance of butterflies, insects and small animals including three families of foxes. There is also a small herd of Rare Breed Longhorn Suckler Cattle.

There are also rows and rows of polythene tunnels where the most amazing varieties of vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, aubergine, and many more, are grown – all providing work and food for the prisoners, with the remaining produce being sold to wholesalers.

Kirkham has links with Myerscough Agricultural College where prisoners can attend training courses on animal husbandry, mowing and industrial trimming. Their cattle have won 17 first and other prizes in local agricultural shows and at the recent Royal Show the prisoners were praised for their high standards and professionalism in the display ring.

Altogether, this day at Kirkham Prison was a very rewarding experience and it is fitting that there is a prison shop at the main gate where the public can buy fresh produce direct from the farm. This prison has embraced an approach to both rehabilitation and wildlife to an impressive mutual benefit.

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Number 213 - Winter 2009

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