Prison food contractor involved in hunger strikes, sex scandal

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"Food" services -- Photo: Brett Nielsen

“Food” services — Photo: Brett NielsenU of R food provider Compass under fire for sub-par services

U of R food provider Compass under fire for sub-par services

The Regina jail is in the news again this week after a food service worker was fired following a “security breach.” CTV reported that the firing came after the employee was caught having sex with an inmate in one of the facility’s walk-in coolers.

Classy.

The worker in question was an employee of Compass Group Canada, one of the largest food service providers in the country. In addition to servicing eight of the province’s correctional facilities, Compass is also the parent company of Chartwells, the primary food service provider at the University of Regina. Chartwells operates fifteen locations across the main U of R campus, ranging from Tim Horton’s to the residence convenience stores.

Although the employee was fired from the jail due to the security risk posed by their actions, there were technically no laws broken, and there was no official investigation by law enforcement.

“We take all security concerns seriously,” said Corrections spokesperson Drew Wilby. “The ministry is happy with how Compass addressed [the concerns].”

This is not the only scandal at the Regina jail to involve food services since Compass took over the contract from the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) in November as a cost-saving measure by the provincial government. There have been two hunger strikes at the facility in as many months, both in protest of the low quality of food being served to inmates.

The first strike, in December, involved a number of inmates refusing their trays in protest after being served uncooked eggs by Compass employees. During a second strike earlier this week inmates cited “ongoing concerns” over food quality. While the more recent strike was short, lasting less than a day by some reports, the number of participants rose from approximately 50 to 121.

Compass Group has stated that they are dedicated to “investigating and addressing all comments” regarding their services at the Correctional Centre.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall drew criticisms earlier this month when he defended the quality of prison food in the province. Wall stated that he had tried the food provided by Compass and found it to be “pretty good.” The Premier went on to say that his best advice for avoiding prison food was “don’t go to prison.”

By hiring Compass to take over food services in Saskatchewan correctional institutions on a five-year contract, the province will reportedly save twelve million dollars over the period. There are approximately 1,200 incarcerated persons in Saskatchewan.

The quality of food served by Compass at U of R has been criticized in recent months as well. Outlets that failed at least one health inspection over the summer included the main kitchen, Common Ground, and Tim Horton’s.

A health inspection of U of R food outlets published in June indicated that “Food or drink (including water and ice) is not prepared, stored, cooked, processed, dispensed, transported, served or sold in a sanitary manner or under sanitary conditions; [the] food facility is not free of pests and; a portion of the food facility is not kept clean, and/or in good repair.”

Many of these concerns were addressed and corrected in more recent inspections.

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