Alberta Justice is defending the segregation of inmates on a hunger strike at the Edmonton Remand Centre.

The inmates are protesting what they say is violence at the hands of guards. The province says the inmates are striking because they want more time outside their cells.

Inmate Jason Robertson told CBC News that he and other inmates participating in the hunger strike are being kept in segregated cells for 23 hours a day, and that their clothing and canteen items had been confiscated.

"They're taking away their rights and private property," Robertson said.

Alberta Justice spokesperson Louise McEachern told CBC News Wednesday that moving the inmates into segregation is a "temporary security measure," and that taking away their personal belongings is "a standard process when there is non-compliance" with remand centre rules.

"Refusing to eat provided meals is an act of non-compliance with institutional routines and raises additional security, health and safety concerns," McEachern said in an emailed statement.

Robertson said two inmates collapsed on Tuesday night. But Alberta Justice disputed that, saying only one inmate experienced a "minor illness" which was not caused by a lack of food. The inmate was treated by medical staff.

27 inmates now refusing meals

The hunger strike began over the weekend, according to three prisoners who spoke with CBC News.

The province said that 55 inmates were not eating as of Sunday afternoon. By Tuesday, the number of inmates still refusing food had dropped to 19.

McEachern said 27 inmates were taking part in the hunger strike Wednesday afternoon, adding that the number was "fluctuating as some join in while others resume eating their meals."

Alberta Justice said it is continuing to monitor the situation at the remand centre and staff are in discussions with prisoners to resolve the issue.

With files from Scott Stevenson