4 Things to know about special diets in provincial jails
- Kate Mitchell
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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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.