While many New Zealanders are opening gifts on Christmas morning, hundreds of prisoners will be learning valuable catering skills by preparing and cooking meals for over 7,500 people in prison.
“A basic, nutritious meal will be served on Christmas Day, with roast chicken and vegetables for lunch, and chicken with rice and salad for dinner, along with two fruit mince tarts to acknowledge the day,” says Neil Beales, Chief Custodial Officer.
“Our Christmas lunch is the same at all 17 prisons we manage nationwide and is similar to what has been provided on Christmas day for many years.
All meals in prison are prepared and cooked by prisoners learning taking part in industry training and employment in prison kitchens, under the supervision of qualified instructors. Taking part in training and employment in prisons aims to prepare people for employment on their release from custody.
“Christmas day is much the same as any other day in prison, but where possible we offer additional sports and other activities,” says Mr Beales.
“We know Christmas can be a really difficult time, particularly for the families of men and women in prison. Throughout December our sites provided whānau activities where children are able to read books, make gifts and play games with their mum or dad to celebrate the season.
“COVID-19 restrictions have meant that Auckland prisons have not been able to host face-to-face visits, however we have provided people in prison with additional phone cards to ensure their contact with friends and whānau continues.”
“It’s also important for us to recognise that a large number of our staff will be working on Christmas Day and right throughout the break.
“Corrections operates 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, so I’d like to acknowledge our frontline staff who will be working. Thank you to each and every one of you for your commitment to supporting the people we manage to make meaningful change to their lives, and for keeping our prisons and communities safe throughout the holiday period.”
Corrections staff and people in prison have been contributing to their local communities in the build up to Christmas.
Men at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison have been busy sewing advent calendars for children in the local area, filled with treats donated by prison staff and their families. The men sewed 30 calendars, 104 Christmas decorations, and a number of table runners, which have all been distributed to local charities including Re-Source Hawke's Bay, The Acorn Project, and Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga.
Freshly harvested seasonal produce such as potatoes, lettuce, leeks, and strawberries grown by prisoners all around New Zealand has been donated to local foodbanks and charities, including the Salvation Army and Christchurch City Mission.
Staff at prisons and Community Corrections sites across the country have collected gifts for both the children of prisoners and local charities, while staff at National Office have donated 13 boxes of gifts and essential items to the Wellington City Mission.
“Christmas gives people in prison the opportunity to give back, which we know provides a sense of purpose and pride and helps people to feel connected to their community. This can be an important step towards a person making positive change in their lives,” says Mr Beales.
Note: A vegetarian option of crumbed spinach and pumpkin patties is available for Christmas lunch, while falafel, rice and salad are available for dinner.
The standard Christmas menu this year will cost $7.63 per prisoner for the day. This is the normal daily menu cost of $6.53, plus $1.10 for the addition of two fruit mince tarts.