Edmonton Remand Centre inmates go on hunger strike to protest limited free time

More than 200 inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre went on a hunger strike at 6 a.m. Monday to protest limited free time, a prisoner tells CBC News.

'They are pretty desperate to get things changed there,' says inmate's mother

Some inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre began refusing food at 6 a.m. Monday, a prisoner tells CBC News. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

More than 200 inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre went on a hunger strike at 6 a.m. Monday to protest limited free time, a prisoner tells CBC News.

"We're out of our cells for one hour, three or four times. The maximum we're out of our cells for is five times a day,"  said Daniel Raymond.

Inmates are protesting the jail's "tiered rotation," which lets inmates out of their cells in groups, with the number of inmates in each group and the time they're released from their cells, staggered throughout the day.

The rotational schedule was introduced last December as a six-month pilot after correctional officers, worried about an increase in violent attacks by inmates, staged a lockdown at the jail.

Individuals at the prison are given anywhere from 3.5 hours to 11 hours of free time per day, depending on the unit and the inmate's behaviour, according to a government statement.

'Pretty desperate'

Blanche Craig said her 32-year-old son is one of the inmates locked in his cell for long periods of time each day.

She said her son called her Sunday night and complained about the limited free time outside of his cell. He also told her about Monday's hunger strike.

"They are pretty desperate to get things changed there," she told CBC News from Saskatchewan.

"I don't like to hear that he's hungry and in bad condition."

In an emailed statement Monday, a justice department spokesperson said officials are "actively determining the inmates' specific concerns."

The health of the Inmates on the hunger strike will be monitored by Alberta Health Services staff, the statement said.

In January, a number of inmates went on a hunger strike to protest attacks on inmates by guards.

Raymond said nothing has changed more than six months later.

"They think they're being assaulted and it is us that are being assaulted," he said.

Edmonton's remand centre is the largest facility of its kind in Canada and can house almost 2,000 inmates.