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4 Things to know about special diets in provincial jails

The provincial jail population is large and diverse, and diet is one of the areas where the Ministry tries to accommodate in some cases. Below are a few things to know about special diets:

  1. Special diets are offered for those with particular needs. Prisoners can receive special diets if it is needed due to medical treatment/a medical condition (e.g. pregnancy, diabetes, etc.), religious requirements (e.g. Halal, Kosher, etc.), or Lifestyle convictions (e.g. vegetarianism and veganism).
  2. During admission, each prisoner is supposed to be asked by an admitting and discharge staff member or health care worker whether they need a special diet. If for some reason a prisoner is not asked about it during intake or their needs change during their incarceration, that prisoner can submit a request form to ask for a special diet. The request form should explain why the prisoner needs a special diet, as an authorizing official (e.g. Superintendent, health care staff, or Chaplain) will review the request and decide whether or not to approve it.
  3. A prisoner may have their diet discontinued if they do not follow the diet. It may be challenging to have the diet re-instated once it has been discontinued, as the authorizing official may question the sincerity of the request.
  4. If a prisoner is not provided with a special diet, then they can challenge that decision. Depending on the circumstances, a prisoner may want to submit an internal complaint, file an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, or even bring a judicial review or Charter application. It can be helpful to speak to a lawyer to determine the best strategy to challenge a decision related to special diets.
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