Privatized food services a health hazard, say Saskatchewan's Pine Grove inmates

“When our members delivered food services, the meals were safe and met health standards. Clearly, Compass can’t manage even that.” — Bob Bymoen, SGEU President

Saskatoon (21 March 2016) — As complaints skyrocket over poor quality and insufficient quanity of food being served at the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre, letters from inmates forwarded to the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE) indicate that privatized food services at Pine Grove Correctional Centre also continue to be inadequate.

Serious concerns raised over quality of food following privatization

“Inmates at Pine Grove are reaching out to us and asking for help,” says SGEU President Bob Bymoen. “They’ve told us that medically necessary diets are not being followed, that pregnant women are eating potentially unsafe food, and that tension among inmates is very high as a result of Compass’s poor food services.”

U.K.-based Compass took over the kitchens at Saskatchewan correctional centres and young offender facilities on Nov.ember 7, 2015. Recently, The Leader-Post reported that the number of food-related formal complaints lodged by inmates at the Regina Correctional Centre has dramatically increased following privatization. Complaints jumped from only 4 in the first 10 months of 2015, to 20 in November, and to another 45 — including 12 group complaints — in December.

Compass's food service poses health risk to inmates

Female inmates at Pine Grove Correctional Centre are similarly worried by the food provided at their facility. They describe Compass’s food as “horrible,” writing in their letters that they’ve been served raw roast beef that was beyond human consumption, that undercooked eggs were “liquefied,” and that child-sized portions are served to adult inmates.

Although the government has tried to address some of these issues, Compass’sfood services continue to pose a health and safety risk.

“I personally do get very sick,” writes Kristen, an inmate at Pine Grove Correctional Centre. “In order to take my medication I have to eat before my meds. I cannot do that so I get sick, vomit and then end each night in hunger pains.”

Before privatization, SGEU/NUPGE delievered safe and healthy meals

“The government continues to claim Compass is doing good work,” said Bymoen. “They don’t seem to understand what’s at stake. Compass is giving inadequate nutrition and potentially unsafe food to youth as young as 12, to remand inmates who haven’t had a trial yet, to people with serious mental health issues, to pregnant women, and to people with severe food allergies.”

“When our members delivered food services, the meals were safe and met health standards,” adds Bymoen. “Clearly Compass can’t manage even that.”

Poor food quality leads to rising tensions

As a result of poor food quality and quantity, inmates say they are experiencing a drastic drop in morale, potentially leading to security issues. 

“It used to be that when lunch and supper were served, it was a source of happiness on the unit,” writes Fran, an inmate at Pine Grove. “Now mealtime can be somewhat volatile and unpredictable … all of the ingredients for a riot are present.”

Staff safety is being put at risk, says Bymoen. “Food quality is a major factor in inmate moods and behaviour,” he said. “If they’re upset over quality and quantity, our members will feel the effects of this unrest.”


James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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