Regina prison inmates on hunger strike

REGINA – Fifteen inmates at the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre have gone on a hunger strike in protest to a lack of access to physical exercise.

“There’s no gym. There’s a room with a window that opens and they say that’s our exercise,” said Forrest Pelletier. He’s been at the facility for the past three months, awaiting trial for a break and enter charge.

“We just want outside exercise at least once a week or else given some type of exercise equipment.”

On behalf of his client, Pelletier’s lawyer sent a letter to the ministry on February 24 concerning the lack of exercise options.

The ministry of justice contends the protesting inmates aren’t allowed outdoors for security reasons.

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“I understand the inmates are not pleased about a lack of access to the outdoors as well as a lack of access to the gym,” said Drew Wilby, executive director of corporate affairs for the ministry of justice, corrections & policing. “Due to the security and safety risks of that unit, those two privileges have been taken away.”

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News of overcrowding in the Saskatchewan prison system is not new. Gymnasiums, chapels and other rooms are being converted into bunking.

An October 2014 report, titled Warehousing Prisoners in Saskatchewan, said the province boasts one of the most highly strained provincial prison systems in the country.

READ MORE: Overcrowding turning Sask. prisons into inmate ‘warehouses’: report

“How people are treated while they’re in a prison situation directly impacts how they live when they’re outside,” said Shaun Dyer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan. “It’s best to ensure that everybody, regardless of their circumstances and threat have the most effective and humane treatment that’s available to them.”

As of Monday morning, 647 inmates were at the Regina Correctional Centre. The ministry confirmed there is no gym for offenders but that all units, except for the one in question, have access to the outside exercise yards. The inmates that are striking only have access to a “fresh air” room.

Photo of Forrest Pelletier/ Supplied.

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