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May 3, 2004 
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Cons enjoy fast-food feasts
By KATHLEEN HARRIS, OTTAWA BUREAU, SUN MEDIA


Federal prisons don't need a day pass to fix a fast food craving -- they get it delivered right to the joint, Sun Media has learned. Inmates can order a variety of tasty treats, including Kentucky Fried Chicken, subs, McDonald's and Chinese food. But the hands-down favourite in the lock-up is pizza -- with one group of convicts ringing up a hefty $760 delivery bill for Italian food at Ontario's Joyceville Institution recently.

Offenders at the medium-security pen chomped down on lasagna, garlic bread, spaghetti and more than 50 specially-ordered pizzas, according to a prison source.

Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) admits fast food behind bars is permitted for special events or as a reward when a unit has been "incident-free" for a long stretch.

But sources say it has become a routine practice that poses a new security threat to institutions already battling drugs and weapons smuggled behind bars.

"There's always the risk that they'll slip in some dope under the pizzas," one veteran correctional officer said.

Inmate groups from ethnic backgrounds also make special requests for Chinese, Indian or Jamaican food, he said.

CSC's Michele Pilon-Santilli said there is no set policy on permitting pizza into prisons -- it's up to the discretion of each institutional management or warden. All costs must be incurred by inmates through their $4.25 per diem, she said.

Kevin Grabowsky, a union representative and veteran guard at Edmonton's maximum-security prison, said fried chicken, pizza, McDonald's and submarines are all brought in to the prisons. Usually it's delivered, but sometimes a staff member fetches the food.

Staff take steps to screen the grub, since officers have discovered drugs and weapons smuggled in through "rigged" pop cans.

"They'll put it through an X-ray machine, or they'll wand it with a metal detector, which doesn't get the drugs," Grabowsky said. "But we can't put the dogs on it, because they'd probably try to eat it."

Conservative MP Randy White said prisoners receive a healthy diet of food in the institution and questioned the need for "perks."

"This is part and parcel of CSC's pacification program -- allow them to do what they want," he said.

"If you go to any other country in the world, they would think that was highly odd. But in Canada, it's all about keeping them happy and keeping them quiet as opposed to getting them rehabilitated and prepared for the street."

ON THE MENU

- Pizza

- KFC

- Burger King

- McDonald's

- Tim Hortons

- Chinese food

- Jamaican patties

-- items that have been ordered for delivery to Canadian prisons, according to veteran guards



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