Inside the prison riot


A medium-security inmate at Saskatchewan Penitentiary told us how the deadly riot started, how it went down and what happened next

One day, at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, Devon Paskimin got a grilled cheese sandwich. That was his lunch, garnished with a couple pieces of celery and an apple.

It wasn’t enough.

“There’s some big guys in here – 180, 190, 200 pounds,” he said. “I’m an average guy and I’m always going hungry.”

The prisoners on Paskimin’s range added it to a long list of frustrations: finicky showers, “raw soup,” the “bad attitude” of kitchen staff, charges that cut into their work pay.

“It’s kind of like the last straw,” he said, “the quality of the food, the quantity, the portion sizes – they were small and the dishes from the kitchen weren’t good.”

According to Paskimin, that’s what triggered the Dec. 14th riot at Saskatchewan Penitentiary – a violent outburst of pent-up grievances that led to the death of one prisoner and the injuries of eight others.

Paskimin was on one of the medium-security ranges where the riot broke out. For about four days leading up to that day, he said, inmate kitchen workers were refusing to go on shift. They submitted a list of demands, Paskimin said. Management met with inmate representatives to try to settle the dispute.

“I can’t say for sure, but the kitchen staff felt it wasn’t good enough,” he said. “They weren’t happy with what was on the table and they refused to go back to work. And then I guess the rest of the population was behind the kitchen guys.”

At 1 p.m., Dec. 14th, the guards told the prisoners to lock up. But they didn’t. At that moment, Paskimin said, things started to “get out of hand…”

For more on this story, please see the Dec. 28 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.