Locked out of the Cup

BROOKES MERRITT -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

There may only be one thing that can keep the diehard Eskimo fans stuck in Alberta from parking their collective rear ends and watching the Grey Cup on TV - the doors of a jail cell.

But that's exactly what will prevent the pigskin-loving inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre from seeing most of the game, as the centre goes into daily lockdown from 4 to 6 p.m.

Kickoff is just after 4 p.m. tomorrow, which means when the gates of their cells finally swing open, inmates will be lucky to catch more than the last hour of battle between the Green and Gold and the Montreal Alouettes.

"That would suck - it would be brutal for football fans," said one man who did time in the remand centre during the 1997 NHL playoffs.

"When I was in they let us watch major sports games on a black and white TV. A 20-inch screen for 50 guys ," he said.

"Why can't they just change the lockdown rule for one day?"

Dan MacLennan, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents remand guards, says the rules "don't change for a football game."

Unlike the federal maximum security Edmonton Institution, cells at the remand don't have amenities like televisions.

"There's a common area on each floor, and the inmates can buy snacks like pop or chips from the canteen, but nothing special has been brought in for Grey Cup," MacLennan said.

Not even non-alcoholic beer, quipped a source inside the remand centre, a 20-year staffer who asked not to be named.

"We used to compromise and let the boys out for stuff like Grey Cup, but with all the overcrowding and violence lately I don't expect that will happen tomorrow," he said.

"It's a smart move to keep them locked up."

He said remand inmates undergo daily lockdowns between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., for head counts and for staff and inmates to get their meals.

When they're not under lock and key, inmates on each floor have access to a common area with bolted-down tables and benches, and can watch a 14-inch colour TV.

And aside from the luxury of personal televisions in the cells of the Edmonton Max, inmates there won't be getting special treatment either.

"Nothing is planned for these guys," said Kevin Grabowsky, regional president for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

"As far as we're concerned, Sunday will be just another normal day."


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