Update from Regina jail: Inmates refusing to eat privatized food until demands met

Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
Just like they said they would a group of inmates inside a Regina jail are refusing to eat the “gross” meals served to them sending back oatmeal at breakfast and bologna sandwiches at lunch Thursday.

It’s believed the hunger protest is secluded mainly to one section of the Regina Correctional Centre’s remand wing where about 70 inmates are demanding better quality food they say is often old and stinky according to inmate Kenneth Morrison, 27, originally from the Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Morrison said all but one person, a diabetic, is taking part from his unit, 1C, and many are Aboriginal.

“We haven’t eaten. We have sent the breakfast trays back and we have sent the lunch trays back,” said Morrison who is awaiting trial for assault, possession of stolen property and breaches in March. 

“Everybody has been really responsible about it and respectful. We’re just trying to get the point across, right?”

Saskatchewan has been plagued with complaints from inmates across several of their institutions after privatizing food services in November to Compass Group, a company based in Mississauga, Ont., in an effort to save money – an estimated $12 million over the next five years.

But almost immediately inmates threw their arms up or in the case of the RCC, their trays as this is the third food protest since just before Christmas.

The institution is split into different sections, including convicted inmates serving sentences, who are kept from those awaiting trial on charges.

Sentence inmates held a so-called hunger strike for a few days in December before the province gave them assurances food quality was being addressed. Another one erupted just after New Year’s, but was short lived.

Then on Tuesday, Morrison called APTN National News saying he was organizing a protest on the remand side.

Morrison told APTN Thursday afternoon he met with the jail’s warden Darin Reeves Tuesday to provide his demands and afterward was given a letter from Reeves outlining how inmate concerns were being addressed. 

Reading from a letter he told APTN jail staff had met with a representative from Compass Wednesday who promised to address food quality.

That included better tasting milk and fixing kitchen equipment like the damaged coffee maker. The letter mentions the “turkey product” served to inmates would be improved immediately.

Consistency is something they are looking to address too, right down to whether there’s mustard on bologna sandwiches.

“They usually send mustard but it’s not consistent,” said Morrison.

But he’s seen uncooked or stinky meat make its way to the inmates. Adding to the problem is that the food is served on dirty trays from a messy cart, he said.

Compass has apparently promised to improve its cleanliness but maybe not by Thursday morning.

“The cart they sent today stinks like garbage still. The stains are still on it. I don’t know if they washed it with a dirty rag, but it smelled very, very bad,” he said. 

The hunger protest has now gone political, at least on the inside, and appears to be the one thing in the way of ending the food protest.

Morrison said they are demanding equal representation among inmates. 

Sentence inmates have representatives to express concerns to Reeves on behalf of all of them, but that doesn’t include remand guys said Morrison.

“(It’s) to let them know we are in need of representation in remand, just to ensure things like this don’t happen anymore (by) ensuring communication,” he said. 

So if they get their political representatives, better food, new coffee maker and prove their point Morrison doesn’t see the protest lasting too much longer.

“As long as the (other inmates) are okay with that then I don’t see it proceeding,” he said.

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Kenneth Jackson can be reached at 613-325-6073, collect calls accepted.



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