Group of Regina Correctional Centre inmates refusing food over quality concerns

A group of Regina inmates are refusing to eat in a protest over food quality concerns.

The inmates began their protest by refusing food trays on Saturday

The provincial government has won an award for the redesign of the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre. (CBC)

A group of Regina inmates are refusing to eat in a protest over food quality concerns.

On Saturday, Regina Correctional Centre inmate Forrest Pelletier contacted CBC, and said they began a hunger strike to protest what they consider food from a seriously inadequate quality.

Pelletier organized two prior hunger strikes in March. He said the food that's served to prisoners sometimes contains expired food or meat that's not cooked enough.

"Enough is enough," Pelletier said. "They can't continue to treat us like that. We are human."

On Saturday, Drew Wilby, executive director of corporate affairs for the ministry of justice, corrections and policing, confirmed "30 to 35 offenders have refused their trays," but said "this isn't a hunger strike."

"We're obviously aware of the concerns that they have," Wilby said. "We're working to look at some of those concerns and what can be done to address them in terms of the food."

Food service change on Nov. 7

Forrest Pelletier is part of a hunger strike at the Regina Correctional Centre.

On Nov. 7, Wilby said the food service provisions in eight of the correctional facilities around the province were contracted out to Compass Group Canada.

"We contracted that out to ensure efficiency of the service, to ensure quality meals, as well," Wilby said. "That decision would result in significant savings to the tax payers of Saskatchewan."

Wilby did confirm there were complaints made, and that the ministry would be looking into the matter to ensure the food is meeting quality standards.

"There were some challenges at brunch this morning that we're aware of. We are aware of some of the concerns they have regarding the eggs at brunch this morning. Accommodation was made to bring out new trays."

He said they take the matter "very seriously," and that medical attention will be provided to the offenders to make sure they're healthy.

"The offenders today have brought forward some very valid concerns in terms of the meal that was prepared today, but we believe we took action to address that," Wilby said.

Inmates want cultural and spiritual services

Pelletier said the inmates involved are requesting the need for cultural and spiritual services — which was at the centre of one of the hunger strikes in March.

They are also requesting more time for exercise outside.

Wilby said the unit where these inmates are located is "one of our high-secure gang units at Regina Correctional Centre."

"As such, you know, gym time, outdoor time, exercise time is monitored accordingly. You need to make sure that the populations that are participating are compatible with one another. And those decisions are best made by the facility staff that are at Regina Correctional or any of the province's correctional facilities. They make those decisions to ensure the safety of everyone involved."

On Saturday, Wilby said he was unaware of the inmates cultural and spiritual concerns. He noted that some provisions have been made to grant access to such things, but says he will have to look into the request for sweats. 

NDP critical of privatizing corrections food

On Sunday, the NDP released a statement after learning about the incident at Regina Correctional Centre.

Warren McCall, NDP central services critic, said "the Sask. Party is risking public safety in order to pursue privatization."

"Saskatchewan families also don't want to see a flood of inmates needing medical care as a result of spoiled or raw food," McCall said. "When the Sask. Party hired a European catering company to manage food in Saskatchewan's correctional facilities, they spent millions of dollars and ended many mortgage-paying Saskatchewan jobs."