No visitors, no religious services: Christmas Day behind bars in NSW

Just as in the Paul Kelly song How to Make Gravy, prisoners in NSW won’t be seeing their families this Christmas.

Since a 2007 Industrial Relations Commission ruling gave prison officers the day off on December 25, the state’s 13,000 inmates — including the likes of disgraced former MP Eddie Obeid, alleged drug kingpin turned fugitive Mostafa Baluch and the alleged kidnappers of former Australian cricketer Stuart MacGill — are not allowed visitors on Christmas Day.

Eddie Obeid arrives at Silverwater Prison earlier this year.Credit:The Sydney Morning Herald

Religious services aren’t held on December 25, either.

“As has been the case in previous years, there will be no visits to correctional centres on 25 December,” Corrective Services confirmed in a statement to the Herald. “Multi-denominational religious services will not be held on Christmas Day, but in the days leading up to and following.”

Prison Fellowship Australia’s general manager Glen Fairweather said the festive season in prison could be a difficult experience for both inmates and their families.

“There is very little that is different or special about Christmas Day in prison,” he said.

“As we have all experienced to an extent this year due to lockdowns, the separation from family is the hardest. It’s often the families, and especially the children, on the outside who are most impacted at Christmas.”

Mostafa Baluch is brought back to Sydney by police after allegedly cutting off his ankle bracelet and going on the run.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Instead of a visit or religious services, inmates will be able to enjoy a set menu including a breakfast of a packet cereal, bread, jam and carton of milk.

Lunch will take on a slightly more traditional Christmas flavour, with roast turkey with cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin and seasonal vegetables on offer. For vegetarians, spinach and cheese patties, potatoes, pumpkin and seasonal vegetables are on the menu.

Prisoners can have a fruit mince pie for dessert.

For dinner, crumbed fish salad with pumpkin, tomato, cucumber, carrots and lettuce is on the menu for fish eaters, while vegetarians are offered sweet potato falafel with pumpkin, tomato, cucumber, carrots and lettuce.

All prisoners are offered a Christmas slice for dessert.

Inmates in NSW receive a present from the Salvation Army, while their children may be provided with a gift from the prisoner by Prisoner Fellowship Australia.

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