About 114 inmates at Regina Correctional Centre are refusing trays of food.
This is the second such event in the past month. The first took place just before Christmas after raw eggs were served to inmates at breakfast.
The Ministry of Corrections and Policing describes this event as a “tray refusal” rather than a hunger strike because all inmates have access to the canteen, where they can purchase items such as chips, chocolate bars and pop.
Compass Group Canada, which provides food for numerous facilities across the province, both private and public, took over the contract in November. It was soon after the switch that some inmates began refusing trays.
More than 160 inmates first refused trays at breakfast on Thursday Jan. 7, by lunch time that number was down to 114. The lunch tray that day consisted of brown bread, butter, bologna, coleslaw, potato salad and a peanut butter and jam pre-made mix on brown bread. Inmates were also served a fiesta rice soup. The components of the sandwich are divided up to allow the inmate to make the sandwich themselves.
While the ministry admits there were some issues in the early days of the Compass contract, it says those issues have been resolved, and the company has added additional resources to the Regina facility to ensure standards are met.
The total cost of the lunch tray is roughly $3.25.
Premier not waffling
The premier was asked about this ongoing issue and answered, “if you really don’t like the prison food, there’s one way to avoid it and that is, don’t go to prison”.
“If you really don’t like the prison food, there’s one way to avoid it and that is, don’t go to prison,” said Premier Brad Wall.
Brad Wall said the government wants to ensure food served to people in the public system is safe and of a high quality, but he maintains Compass Group Canada is credible.
It has been in the province for 35 years providing food both at public and private facilities, like TCU Place in Saskatoon and Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw. In fact, he says the Saskatchewan Party caucus recently held meetings there and ate the food.
Wall says he doesn’t think the inmates have much to complain about.
“I don’t know very many of my constituents that get waffles on a weekday morning, whether they are a little soggy or not,” he responded. “I am pretty comfortable that inmates are getting a pretty good choice.”
Corrections ministry responds
The ministry of corrections does not negotiate with inmates, but says discussions are going on with both inmate and staff representatives to address this issue.
Drew Wilby speaks on behalf of the ministry and says he tried the food himself.
“I enjoyed it, the quality was good, there was definitely enough food on the plate for myself, I wasn’t able to finish my meal,” he commented.
No one has been hospitalized as a result of any issue with the food.
Due to the ongoing work being done between the correctional centre and Compass Group, Wilby anticipates an end to the tray refusal very soon.
There are currently 604 inmates housed at Regina Correctional Centre.