Inmates in Saskatoon, Prince Albert stage hunger strike and call for resignation of Christine Tell

Upwards of 100 inmates at correctional centres in Saskatoon and Prince Albert are holding a hunger strike to protest the handling of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Inmates also want apology from the Corrections, Policing and Public Safety minister

About 90 inmates at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre are taking part in the hunger strike, according to an advocate. (CBC)

Upwards of 100 inmates at provincial jails in Saskatoon and Prince Albert are staging a hunger strike to protest how the province has handled COVID-19 behind bars.

In an email to CBC, inmate Corey Cardinal at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre said they're asking for provincial Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Christine Tell to apologize and resign.

Cardinal said it's not only inmates affected by what's happened.

"Why has the Ministry of Corrections and Policing not stepped up to protect their own staff?" Cardinal wrote Jan. 4.

"Not only have inmates been affected, but the outbreak has affected staff by creating a dangerous work environment for correctional officers that must work in a potentially hostile environment with inmates who are stressed out, also faced with the reality of infection that could be exposed to their families whom they go home to and also exposing the public."

The Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety did not respond to a CBC request for comment.

Prisoner advocate Sherri Maier said that inmates in three units at the Saskatoon jail are participating in the hunger strike. She said this totals about 90 people.

Another 14 inmates at the Pine Grove Correctional Centre, a women's jail in Prince Albert, are also participating, she said.

COVID-19 has been found in jails in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. It has touched men, women and youth behind bars.

The province has resisted calls for mass voluntary testing at the jails, a move that groups such as the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, Legal Aid Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union all advocate as a way of revealing the true extent of the virus behind bars.

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Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.