Christmas behind the wire: What prisoners will be eating, drinking and doing on Christmas Day

Roast chicken and a mince pie will mark the festive season for people serving time in prison around New Zealand this Christmas. 

The Department of Corrections has revealed what Kirihimete will look like "behind the wire", with around 24,000 meals cooked by prisoners in prison kitchens on December 25. 

The lunch menu will consist of roast chicken and vegetables, while roast beef and salad sandwiches will be served for dinner. 

"Our Christmas lunch is the same at all the 17 prisons we manage nationwide and is a similar meal to what has been provided on Christmas Day for many years," says Corrections National Commissioner Rachel Leota. 

"It consists of the standard meal of chicken and vegetables that gets served normally - with the addition of a fruit mince tart to mark the day.

"In prison, Christmas is much the same as any other day, but we do host whānau activities during December so kids can celebrate with their mum or dad ahead of Christmas."

According to the Corrections website, prisoners spend the day engaged in recreational activities such as sports and can attend multi-denominational church services. 

For those wanting to buy Christmas gifts, prisoners are allowed to spend up to $70 a week on items from a local shop that sells Christmas cards or gifts.

Prisoners can receive approved gifts from friends and family, however the Corrections website notes that all items are subject to normal security processes to prevent contraband from entering the prison.

But it's not just all about gifts. In the lead-up to the festive season, Corrections staff and prisoners have been giving back to the community. 

Women and staff at Arohata Prison performed songs, dance and kapa haka at a Christmas concert raising money for local, women-focused charities and projects, including Women's Refuge.

Prisoners at Otago Corrections Facility used their carpentry skills to build toys for around 100 children who are spending Christmas in Dunedin Hospital.

Meanwhile, men at Auckland Prison have refurbished bicycles and Tonka toys to donate as gifts for children through the Prison Fellowship of New Zealand's Angel Tree Christmas initiative.

"Christmas gives people in prison and on community-based sentences an opportunity to use their skills to make a difference in their local communities. This also gives them a sense of purpose, which is a positive step in their rehabilitation," says Leota.

"We operate a 24-hour service for 365 days a year, so this means many of our frontline staff will be away from their whānau at Christmas too. I'd like to thank them for their commitment to ensuring the safe and secure operation of prisons, and management of offenders in the community during the holiday period."




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