Hunger strike at Ottawa jail ends after deal reached on food, sanitation demands

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jail prison

OTTAWA — A hunger strike by inmates at an Ottawa jail ended Thursday, just over a day after they began protesting conditions they say have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deepan Budlakoti said he and 13 others on a maximum security range at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre have received assurances their food will improve, as will access to sanitary supplies.

“We think that we did a good job in terms of negotiating and discussing it,” Budlakoti said in an interview. “Management has been receptive, because they understand that these are things that should have been done in the first place.”

He said the inmates have been told that meals will no longer be served still frozen, and peanut butter and Cracker Barrel cheese will be provided to those who observe Halal and Kosher diets.

Budlakoti, who is in jail awaiting trial on firearms charges, said the prisoners will also receive anti-bacterial liquid soap and will be able to get magazines and books by the end of the month.

The prisoners stopped eating Wednesday morning and reached the agreement a little more than 24 hours later.

Nonetheless, Budlakoti said reaching an agreement has not quelled all of the prisoners’ anxiety.

He said correctional officers are wearing masks, but prisoners are not. And while parts of the jail are being professionally cleaned, that doesn’t extend to the units.

“We’re all concerned. It’s COVID-19. We don’t know what’s actually happening, because we don’t get adequate information except from our loved ones,” he said. “They took away visits, they took away all kinds of different things.”

The Ministry of the Solicitor General confirmed the hunger strike is over, but did not provide details.