Thursday, August 12, 2010
Prisoners go on hunger strike over bad food
It’s a lot easier to go on a hunger strike if you hate the food.
About 300 inmates began the boycott Monday at the Toronto East Detention Centre in Scarborough, according to Laurie Galway, a lawyer representing one of the inmates participating in the strike.
Daniel Sholman, a 19-year-old prisoner, says he would prefer to do his time in a more civilized prison like the Don Jail, where he’s also sampled the cuisine.
“I’ve been in many jails in my life which is kind of sad,” said Sholman, calling the Star from the detention centre. “I’m not saying I’m perfect. But we’re human beings and deserve to be treated better.”
The strike is running in conjunction with Tuesday’s Prison Justice Day, a day set aside to remember inmates killed in Canadian jails, which inspires hunger strikes across the country.
At the Toronto East Detention Centre, chicken is served only once a month, fruits and vegetables are a rarity and special dietary needs are ignored, Sholman said. He’s been at the jail for the past two months as he awaits trial for breaking and entering charges.
Not only is the food subpar, prisoners say, but portions are simply too meagre.
“There’s not enough food for grown men to live on,” Galway said.
Sholman said the inmates filled out complaint forms. Galway, who represents a different prisoner, said the complaints were sent up the chain of command and dismissed.
But problems go beyond the food, inmates say. It’s also the hospitality.
“In the Don and Maplehurst (correctional complex) I feel more alive,” Sholman said. “They bring you outside.”
The situation inside could get worse. There is talk of rioting among the prisoners, but that may jeopardize their cause of securing delicious food, Sholman said.
“It makes me feel like I have no hope. I feel like a hamster (in a cage),” Sholman said.
Toronto East Detention Centre officials refused to comment.
I advocate for prisoners' rights and they are human beings and deserve to be provided with adequate and nutritious food and the jail must provide for dietary needs. That is so inhumane and I support this hunger strike.