In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Proposed Caffeine Ban in Alberta Jails Halted

Coffee back on in province's jails
October 21, 2005
CBC News

Inmates in the province's [Alberta] jails will continue to drink caffeinated coffee and soft drinks with sugar, after Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko backed away from plans to remove the unhealthy beverages from the institutions.

Cenaiko had said having the food and drinks supplied by the jails no longer contain caffeine would be healthier for the prisoners and could lead to a calmer environment, but the idea was met with criticism and ridicule.

Even Premier Ralph Klein said he didn't agree with the decision to stop serving caffeinated drinks to inmates.

"I'll tell you what," he said earlier Thursday. "I'm going to talk to Harvey about that. I'm not very pleased."

Within 12 hours of the no-caffeine notion appearing in the media, Cenaiko had done an about face.

"It was something that was going to be tried, tested, looked at and evaluated," his spokeswoman Annette Bidniak said. "But because of the reaction, we're not going to go ahead."

Under the now-discarded plan, which would have taken effect next week and was based on a prison in Arizona, prisoners could still have bought coffee and soft drinks from the inmate canteen.

represents corrections officers, said earlier he was surprised Cenaiko had moved on caffeine – which has never been an issue – when a number of health and safety concerns raised by guards haven't been addressed.

Dan MacLennan, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees which

"You're always surprised when you hear an issue that you never knew was an issue," MacLennan said. "It should be like a study in politics."

He added that officers have raised a number of legitimate health and safety issues, such as overcrowding and the effects of smoking, but haven't seen any action.

"I think they should try it out in the legislature first, to see if it calms things down there," University of Alberta criminologist Keith Spencer said. "It's a common thing in every workplace and every home.

"I don't see that we need to start implementing dietary experiments in the correctional system."

Spencer, who called the move petty, says banning smoking in provincial institutions made sense, because it affects the health of others.

Correctional officers would have been allowed to drink caffeinated coffee and soft drinks.