Courthouse meals for in-custody accused persons

The Toronto Star recently published an article on the food that is being served to inmates when they attend court.  This is a major problem in various jurisdictions as the food, many claim, does not even meet the most basic nutritional requirements.  While some jurisdictions may provide a a snack bar of some sort and some juice.  This is generally the only meal provided during their entire trip which often starts by leaving the jail early in the morning (at which they may only be offered a cold breakfast) and could end in the late afternoon or evening.

The reason for the jurisdictional differences is that the responsibility for providing food to inmates while at court falls on the local police force and not the province who oversee the jails.  Although I do not see it as a valid excuse, there are obviously budgetary issues at play.  Certain police forces will likely claim security concerns as well in providing a fuller meal to inmates.

Absent a judicial order, inmates attending court on a daily or regular basis while a trial or prelim is ongoing are not provided anything different.  This is especially concerning because not only will the nutritional concerns continue for an extended period but the inmate may not be able to properly concentrate on their trial.

A Judge can certainly make an order for an inmate to be provided a more proper meal.  My understanding is that the Crown takes no formal position on such applications but police forces have been known to send their lawyers to litigate the matter and defend whatever meal the inmate is provided.  I find this particularly ironic because the costs of litigating such a matter would likely far outweigh the costs of just providing a proper meal, at least to those coming to court on a regular basis.  Of course the police forces will likely make the classic “floodgates” argument.

To me I see no excuse for the small meals that are being provided to inmates at courthouses.  While I’m no nutritionist, I find difficulty accepting any argument that meals provided in certain jurisdictions can even meet minimal nutritional requirements.  Whether an inmate is innocent or guilty, receiving a proper meal seems to me like a basic human right which is not being met at certain courthouses.  I applaud those lawyers who have taken it upon themselves to litigate this issue and expect such applications to continue until regulations are put into place that local police forces must follow in determining which meals are to be served.

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