Australia’s 43,000 prisoners are better fed than people in retirement homes, and some are allowed to plan and cook their own meals and order ingredients.
Inmates can expect delicious meals from countries around the world, including Mexican beef, Thai green curry and peri peri chicken – all of which look top notch compared to what is offered in some healthcare facilities.
The fancy prison meals were a stark contrast to the food served to the mother of Andrew Phelan – a resident of Regis Aged Care in Brighton, Melbourne – an institution that was recently awarded four out of five stars.
Mr. Phelan’s mother got a small handful of soggy potato chips, a child-sized fish cocktail, and a dollop of tartar sauce.
Ex-convict Jackson Allum, who spent two years in various NSW prisons, shared Channel 7 about the prison food he was fed, including what was considered a special treat.
Mexican beef, Thai green curry and peri peri chicken meatballs are some of the more exotic options on the dinner menu in NSW prisons
An elderly mother got a ‘meal’ of cold fish and chips (above) for dinner at Regis Aged Care in Brighton
The highlight of the menu rotation was a serving of chicken devil wings, said Allum, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.
“Of course it wasn’t much because you only get three little wings and most guys are big. But they were really delicious, it was like real meat,” he said.
“You know that when they give you gray gunk on a tray at the movie theater, it’s not.”
In contrast, Mr Phelan wrote that the cold fish and chips were ‘what passes for dinner at Regis Aged Care Brighton where there are two staff to serve 12 people’.
‘Mommy’s bed isn’t working. The food is cold. It was left on a tray in Mama’s room and if it wasn’t for me she couldn’t possibly have it,’ he said.
Mr. Phelan said he would be moving his mother to a new facility, writing, “How that place got 4 stars is beyond me.”
Mr Phelan said he would take his mother out of Regis Aged Care, writing: ‘How that place got 4 stars is beyond me’
In prisons, food varies between prisons, security levels, and different states.
A spokesman for the South Australian Department of Corrective Services said ‘prisoners in low-security areas plan, budget, buy and cook their own meals’.
Allum said inmates in lower-security prisons can add to what they get with cans of tuna and packets of instant noodles bought at the prison store.
In some minimum security prisons, such as Glenn Innes – 570 km north of Sydney – groups of about 10 inmates can live together in units rather than cells.
While doing this, they can fill out forms to buy $30 worth of food, which they then cook themselves.
Even in prisons where they are not allowed to cook their own meals, the food served in Australian prisons is usually prepared by other inmates.
At Long Bay Correctional Complex (pictured) in southern Sydney, Reg Boys Bakery employs 45 inmates who bake 25,000 loaves of bread each week
The Geoffrey Pearce Correctional Center in Windsor, on the northwestern outskirts of Sydney, has one of the largest prison kitchens in the country.
Ninety Windsor inmates cook 3.9 million prison meals each year — more than 75,000 a week, most of which are frozen and sent to other prisons.
Working there and in other prison kitchens gives the inmates qualifications that they can use elsewhere when they have served their time.
However, the menu changes more frequently in some states than others.
In Tasmania, seasonal menus for summer and winter dinners are changed every six weeks, while in Queensland the menu is revised every two years.
Alternative prison meals are also available for inmates with different cultural, religious and medical needs.
In a recent experiment at Mobilong Prison in South Australia, inmates were offered a second choice of lunch and dinner to improve nutrition.
It was deemed a success and the state plans to have all SA prisons with menu choices in july.
Beef slices, beef sausages and an omelette with rice (pictured) are all meals prepared by the inmates within the NSW prison system
Some prisoners also sell food outside the prisons.
At Long Bay Correctional Complex in southern Sydney, Reg Boys Bakery employs 45 inmates who bake 25,000 loaves of bread each week.
NSW Corrections Minister Geoff Lee said that ‘prisoners certainly don’t eat like kings’.
“But they are offered a variety of meals that meet their needs on a rotating schedule so that they are well fed and ready to participate in meaningful prison activities,” he said.