There will be no decking the halls this Christmas for those in New Zealand prisons as celebrations will be kept understated and simple.
“While Christmas is acknowledged as being a special day it is done within the constraints of a prison environment, in a low key way,” says Principal Operations Adviser Lance Alexander.
The Department has an obligation to manage prisoners in a safe, secure and humane way. Recognising Christmas in a small way is one way Corrections can do this.
Prisoners may receive approved gifts from friends and family, however all items are subject to normal security processes to prevent contraband entering the prison.
“A lot of prisoners spend their recreation time using skills gained from art programmes to make gifts that they can send home for Christmas. In some instances, the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS) may purchase gifts and send them to friends and family on prisoners’ behalf,” says Mr Alexander.
“For our staff who work on Christmas day it is business as usual, but prisoners may spend their day involved in recreational activities such as touch rugby or basketball. They can also attend multi-denominational church services held by the prison chaplain.”
A prisoner’s participation in these activities depends upon their security classification and behaviour.
Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) Manager Internal Services Sector Russell Baker says the Christmas meal meets basic nutritional requirements but is by no means lavish.
“Lunch is the main meal of the day and consists of a serving of vegetables, chicken and a Christmas fruit-mince pie while dinner is cold meat and salads. A vegetarian option is also available,” he says.
“The day’s meals are also prepared and cooked by prisoners, who learn valuable skills in doing so.”
The Christmas Day menu is the same across all 20 prisons.
The Department budgets approximately $4.50 per day to feed a prisoner and the main difference on Christmas is that the main meal is served at lunch.
Mr Alexander says many people have the impression that Christmas in prison is an extravagant affair, but in reality it’s not.
It is Christmas, but without the trimmings.
Notes to reporter:
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