Tinned tuna, instant noodles and drinking powder: The most popular grocery items inmates are purchasing behind bars
Tinned tuna, instant noodles and soft drink were the most popular foods purchased by New South Wales inmates last year, with 13,000 prisoners spending a combined $25 million on groceries.
Under the NSW prison ‘buy-ups’ scheme, Corrective Services NSW provides only the essentials so that inmates can purchase additional items using their wages or money deposited in their account by families and friends.
Commissioner Peter Severin said the program is an important behaviour management tool and a great way to save taxpayers’ money.
A worker packs away buy-up purchases for inmates in Dillwynia Women’s Correctional Centre
‘Buy-ups’ are a good way behavioural tool as inmates must earn the right to purchase any items
In 2017, inmates across the state used their money to buy 413,980 packets of Singapore noodle and a further 327,320 packets of Hot and Spicy noodles.
The next most popular food purchase was tinned tuna, of which prisoners bought 411,403 tins. To drink, inmates bought a whopping 408,190 sachets of orange drink powder and 310,304 cans of cola-flavoured soft drink.
Minister for Corrections David Elliott said the ‘buy-up’ system was a good way to manage inmates because they needed to earn the privilege to purchase items.
‘Prison staff can restrict or ban an inmate’s access to the buy-up service for periods of time as punishment for poor behaviour or breaches of regulations,’ he explained.
Commissioner Peter Severin added that the costs of the items are met by the inmates, and the revenue generated covers facilities and operational costs.
‘The ability to purchase these goods allows inmates an opportunity to develop a sense of personal responsibility and learn how to budget,’ he said. ‘These skills can assist them when they leave prison and reintegrate into the community.’
The buy-up service also provides employment to 190 inmates, who pick, pack and process buy-ups across the state while learning skills in warehousing and logistics.
The buy-up service provides employment to 190 inmates, who pick, pack and process items
Buy-up systems exist in prisons worldwide and generally follow the same operational procedures. Any profits from the buy-up scheme go back into prison operations.
Inmates’ weekly wages range from $24.60 to $70.55. They can spend up to $100 per week on food items and $100 per month on other grocery items, such as clothing and toiletries. The average weekly spend is about $50.
Corrective Services Industries Director Steve Thorpe said over the past five years, healthier options have been included that are lower in calories, sugars, salts and higher in fibre.
‘The goods on the buy-up list are nominated each year by Inmate Development Committees at each correctional centre,’ Mr Thorpe said.
‘The nominated items are then reviewed for appropriateness by staff and vetted by CSNSW Operations and Security Branches to ensure there are no security issues with the product. ‘