CANON CITY - If you could be anywhere, this might be a place you'd choose. You might question that when you realize it's Canon City, but ignore the zip code and take a look around. What opens up before the eyes is a stunning view that is the reason why many people live in Colorado.The mountain range varies between naked rock and tree covered hills. In between is open prairie. The day 9NEWS was there, the sky was blue and clear.
This beauty was somewhat unexpected considering we were on the premises of a correctional facility. The land is owned by the Colorado Department of Corrections. Inmates from Skyline Correctional Center run the goat farm 9NEWS came to check out.
"This is a good place to be," said Jim Heaston, agro business supervisor for Correctional Industries. "I mean, you have a real nice view. I suppose if you had to come to prison, this would be a good place to come."
"Peace and quiet, beautiful scenery," said Robert Wollner, who's serving time for check fraud. "We're definitely at one of the better programs."
It is quiet until you meet some of the locals. Most will remain nameless, but inmates' favorites answer when called.
"Turkey Butt, Turkey Butt," Wollner called, as a small brown and white goat with floppy ears ran out to greet him. "She's kind of like a dog, she's got that personality where she's loyal and she runs around. You leave, she comes running to the fence to say goodbye. First thing in the morning she comes running up to you, kind of like a little friend."
There are 1,800 goats there versus 30 men.
"Keeps us and the inmates all busy," Heaston said. "We just started it about two-and-a-half to three years ago. We was looking for a new business and decided it could be a very profitable venture."
And it has been. Inmates milk 630 goats twice a day. Longmont's Heystack Mountain Goat Dairy picks up the milk and makes goat cheese for a number of retailers nationwide and here in Colorado. It supplies cheese to King Soopers, Whole Foods, City Market and Safeway, among others.
The farm turns a $6,000 a month profit and these men into mush.
"They're just so cute," smiled Wesley Ivory, who's there for third-degree burglary. "They're precious; you can't help but love them. Look at her."
Ivory grew up in the city. So a goat farm was not his idea of a good time.
"If you can deal with the noise, all the baah all morning, all day," he said. "At first I was trying to make myself like I didn't like it."
Then he fell in love, but still - they are goats.
"It's good, it's come out of the solitary, come out here and have fun with them," Ivory said. "I like it; it takes me away from the prison. It takes a lot of stress off of me."
That is the reason it is one of the most sought after jobs.
"They have a very soft spot for animals," Heaston said. "It's kind of human nature to want to enjoy something and kind of take like an ownership in it."
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Saturday, May 16, 2009