Alberta ditches plan to stop jailhouse coffee flow
Fri, 21 Oct 2005
"They should try it out in the legislature first, to see if it calms things down there." - criminologist Keith Spencer.
Alberta's Solicitor General has changed his mind about removing caffeine from the province's jails in a quest to produce calmer inmates, after the idea was met with criticism and ridicule.
Even Premier Ralph Klein said he didn't agree with Harvey Cenaiko's decision to stop serving coffee and caffeinated soft drinks to inmates.
Cenaiko had said no longer supplying drinks and food that contains caffeine and sugar would be healthier for the prisoners and could lead to a more peaceful environment. Decaffeinated coffee and soft drinks would be supplied instead.
Under the now-discarded plan, which would have taken effect next week, prisoners could still have bought caffeinated and sugary coffee and soft drinks from the inmate canteen, but it wouldn't be provided for free.
Dan MacLennan, president of the union representing corrections officers, said earlier he was surprised that Cenaiko had moved on caffeine given that a number of health and safety concerns raised by guards haven't been addressed.
"Officers are disappointed," said the head of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. "They've been raising health and safety issues on overcrowding, on the effects of smoking, on toxic fumes, a whole bunch of issues that they have in their jail.
"But certainly on what appears to be the whim of someone, they're banning caffeine products. So it's rather disappointing."
Correctional officers would still have been allowed to drink caffeinated coffee and soft drinks under Cenaiko's plan.
Keith Spencer, a University of Alberta criminology professor, thinks Cenaiko should have experimented closer to home first.
"I think they should try it out in the legislature first, to see if it calms things down there," he said of the proposed coffee ban. "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, said banning smoking in provincial institutions made sense because it affects the health of others.