Chickens raised at the nation’s largest “open” prison have been selling like hotcakes, with a record 10,000 sold within a week ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.
The sale of more than 50,000 chickens has helped the Mingde Minimum Security Prison, which is located on a hill in Greater Tainan, bring in about NT$6.64 million (US$222,000) this year, prison warden Hsu Ching-yuan (許清原) said.
The chickens are raised in a free-range environment and “do not contain any chemicals,” Hsu said.
The prison raises about 8,800 chickens a month and commissions outside businesses to sell the produce, he said.
Surrounded by hills and a lake, the prison, dubbed a “natural prison,” has no walls, bars on the windows or armed wardens. The inmates work in fields and help raise the chickens. They have learned how to grow vegetables and fruit, such as cabbage and mangoes, which a prison guide describes as “organic and non-toxic.”
The prison’s mangoes are their second-most popular produce, said Tsai Chin-hung (蔡金宏), who supervises agriculture there.
The chickens are a native species that tend to fight each other after about three months, “so their meat is tougher,” Tsai said.
“People in the neighborhood often buy a dozen at a time. Sales are particularly good during traditional festivals and we have sold 10,000 for Lunar New Year,” he said.
The prison, which covers about 260 hectares, is the second of its kind in Taiwan. Apart from drug addicts, repeat offenders and -criminals that have other cases pending, convicts sentenced to fewer than five years in prison and who have already served more than two months are eligible to be transferred to an open jail.
“The inmates can discover the meaning of life through labor, such as farming in the open environment of the prison,” said Chan Che-feng (詹哲?), deputy superintendent of the Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections. “They also have the opportunity to visit their families, which can help them remain more connected to society.”