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Sugar and spice and all things not so nice barred from prison

Published date: Wednesday 10 October 2018

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Hot chips, ice cream and chili sauce are among the most popular items requested by inmates, which have been refused in the past two years by Corrective Services NSW.

The state’s 13,000 male and female inmates can request items be added to the prison grocery ‘buy-ups’ list, but food and goods deemed unsafe or inappropriate are knocked back.

CSNSW Commissioner Peter Severin said inmates’ requests are thoroughly vetted by

Corrective Services Industries staff, prison Governors and the Security and Intelligence unit.

“Any item deemed a security risk will not be approved to ensure the safety of our correctional centres,” Mr Severin said.

“Inmates also earn the privilege to purchase items, so prison staff can restrict or ban an inmate’s access to the grocery service as punishment for poor behaviour or breaches of regulations.”

About 100 item requests have been rejected in the past two years, with the most popular including:

  • Ice cream (inappropriate and storage issues)
  • Frozen hot chips (inappropriate and storage issues)
  • Hot chilli sauce and spices including turmeric, paprika, curry and ginger (security risk)
  • Raw sugar (security risk - content can be used to make gaol brew)
  • Roll-on deodorant (contraband risk)
  • Gravy powder, mayonnaise and braised steak and onions in a tin (slow sales)

Corrective Services Industries Group Director Steve Thorpe said the ‘buy-ups’ scheme was based on a full cost-recovery model so it is cost neutral for the NSW taxpayer.

“Similar systems exist in prisons worldwide and profits from the scheme go back into prison operations,” Mr Thorpe said.

“The goods are X-rayed by staff and sent to each inmate in clear plastic bags.”

The ‘buy-ups’ list allows inmates to purchase basic grocery items using their wages or money deposited in their account by families and friends.

Inmates’ weekly wages range from $24.60 to $70.55. They can spend up to $100 per week on a range of food items and $150 per month on other items, such as clothing and toiletries. The average weekly spend is about $52.