January 7, 2016 1:21 pm
Updated: January 8, 2016 4:14 pm

UPDATE: Regina prison inmates end hunger strike

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REGINA – A hunger strike at the Regina Correctional Centre is over, Ministry of Justice officials said Friday.

The ministry said none of the inmates refused any of the lunch trays. The lunch being served was similar to Thursday’s lunch, with soup, sandwich, juice and other sides.

A group of inmates at the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre began refusing food on Jan. 7, protesting against what they said were ongoing quality issues.

The current number of inmates who participated in the strike was reported by Corrections to be 121.

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This food refusal was the second the correctional centre has seen in two months. In December, more than 50 inmates refused to eat, again citing food quality concerns.

“The issue before Christmas was uncooked eggs,” said Drew Wilby, executive director of corporate affairs for the Ministry of Justice, Corrections & Policing.

“We corrected that issue. Part of it was equipment, part of it was quality.”

There was also a hunger strike at the facility in March 2015, but that one was held to protest lack of access to physical exercise.

On Jan. 2, inmates also refused food, but started eating again the same day after the Correctional Centre said they are working with Compass Group to address the inmates’ issues with the food.

Compass Group is a private company which began serving food to all Saskatchewan jails in November. Staff at the jails also have access to the food provided by the company.

“Everyone is entitled to safe, healthy food and we are committed to investigating and addressing all comments regarding our operations at the Regina Correctional Centre,” said Compass Group Canada’s corporate communications manager Saira Husain in an email Thursday.

Husain also said in the email that Compass Group will have daily meetings with the operations teams at all jails across Saskatchewan to reinforce proper cooking and food handling protocols.

She added that the company’s primary concern is that the food served is prepared using quality products and ingredients. This is done with food safety, quality assurance protocols and trained employees.

Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU), which lost its contract to Compass Group, said it is concerned with the welfare of inmates and workers.

“We should still treat people humanely and the way that inmates are being treated puts risk on the workers in there,” said SGEU president Bob Bymoen.

The union added that the provincial government can terminate its contract with Compass Group with only one years’ notice, or 90 days notice if the company continues delivering unacceptable performance.

In 2015, the province said it would save $12 million over a five-year contract with Compass Group and would also actually increase food quality.

Premier Brad Wall said food provided in the public system should be safe and as high quality as it can be.

However, he said he has seen the menu and thinks inmates are getting a good choice of food.

“If you really don’t like the prison food, there’s one way to avoid it and that’s don’t go to prison,” said Wall.

Compass Group also provides services to University of Regina, Co-op Refinery Complex, The Co-operators, TCU Place in Saskatoon, City of Saskatoon, Saskatoon Health Region, Mosiac Place in Moose Jaw, Regina Airport Authority, Saskatoon Airport Authority and SaskTel in Regina and Saskatoon.

With files from Brandon Gonez and Mike McKinnon

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