Just days after a lockdown at the Edmonton Remand Centre was lifted, about 200 prisoners refused to eat their meals.
Alberta Justice confirmed this started Monday morning.
“We are committed to ongoing dialogue and monitoring the involved inmates to address their concerns, while at the same time maintaining security and safety for staff and inmates,” a spokesperson for the justice ministry told Global News in an email.
“We are actively determining the inmates’ specific concerns.”
Once the hunger strike began, protocols were implemented by centre staff, including “enhanced monitoring of the inmates’ physical condition by Alberta Health Services.”
Those individuals still have access to food from other sources like canteen purchases, Alberta Justice said.
The government spokesperson did not clarify exactly why the prisoners refused to eat, but said the action followed the lockdown earlier this month.
A lockdown was issued at the Edmonton Remand Centre on July 13 after a number of suspected overdoses as well as a death, the correctional officers’ union said.
Staff searched the whole facility for contraband, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said in a news release.
The government said an inmate was found unresponsive in his cell on July 13 and couldn’t be revived. Six other inmates were found “in medical distress” at the remand centre on the same day.
Alberta Justice said in each case, Narcan — the brand name for the drug naloxone, which is used as an antidote for suspected opioid overdoses — was administered. The inmates were taken to hospital and all six returned to the Edmonton Remand Centre that evening.
The lockdown was lifted the night of July 18.
“Our priority was the health and safety of inmates and corrections staff,” Alberta Justice said Tuesday.
“While we understand that the lockdown was challenging for inmates, it was necessary to ensure that facility was searched and that there was no illicit contraband that would harm inmates and staff.”
The justice ministry said prisoners are encouraged to submit any concerns or requests in writing to facility staff, even the director.
“These requests and/or complaints are reviewed by the person the request is directed to and responded to after being assessed to determine any appropriate and relevant outcomes and/or solutions.”
— With files from Phil Heidenreich, Global News