How prisoners celebrate Christmas and give back to community

Southland prisoners make toys for kids in hospital.
Southland prisoners make toys for kids in hospital. Photo credit: Corrections

It may be a joyous occasion for most but for the families of prisoners, Christmas is tough. 

In tradition of sharing the holidays with loved ones, prisons open their doors for "whānau days" in the lead up to Christmas - where kids can join their mum or dad in activities. 

Corrections acting national commissioner Ben Clark says it can be a "difficult" time.

"For prisoners, Christmas Day is much the same as any other day, but, where possible, we offer additional sports and other activities for individuals in our care," he says. 

A festive lunch is served up in 17 Corrections-run prisons across the country on December 25. It's prepared by prisoners learning hospitality skills through employment in prison kitchens.  

The lunch served to prisoners on Christmas consists of chicken and vegetables, while cold meat and salads are served for dinner. Prisoners also each get two mini fruit mince pies to mark the day, Mr Clark says. 

Auckland Prison donates fresh veggies to the Salvation Army.
Auckland Prison donates fresh veggies to the Salvation Army. Photo credit: Corrections

"Our Christmas menu will feed up to 10,000 prisoners in our care. We're able to mark the special day with a few small changes to our normal menu, which meet both nutritional and budgetary requirements."

To make Christmas an enjoyable time for everyone, he said Corrections staff, prisoners and community-based offenders have been giving back to their communities. 

Prisoners at Otago Corrections Facility and Invercargill Prison have used their carpentry skills to build toys for children spending Christmas in hospital. Meanwhile prisoners at Auckland Prison have been restoring children's bikes to donate. 

Prisoners in Auckland restore bikes for kids in care
Prisoners in Auckland restore bikes for kids in care Photo credit: Corrections

Tongariro Prison staff and prisoners, alongside Taupo Quiltmakers, have made quilts for elderly charity Age Concern in Taupo. 

In Manawatu, corrections staff works with their colleagues from the Ministry of Social Development to deliver care packages to vulnerable families in Palmerston North.  

"Christmas can be a difficult, lonely and sometimes stressful time for the people that we work with in the community. It's been great to see our staff focussing on community safety by making sure that people can access support if things are getting tough for them," says Mr Clark. 

He said prisoners across the country have grown fresh produce to donate to local foodbanks and charities, including the Salvation Army on Auckland's North Shore as well as Women's Refuge in the Hutt Valley and Te Korowai Ropu for the Love Soup initiative.  

"At Corrections, we feel it's extremely important for staff and prisoners alike to support the communities we are part of," Mr Clark says. 

"Being able to use their skills to make a difference gives prisoners a sense of purpose and pride, especially around Christmas time. 

"It can also provide a further step in their journey to turning their lives around."

Newshub.