Sam Boyer

Sam Boyer is a police reporter for the NZ Herald.

Christmas just another day for detainees in police station lockups

National police policy dictates detainees must be fed "adequate meals", according to Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch. Photo / Lynda Feringa
National police policy dictates detainees must be fed "adequate meals", according to Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch. Photo / Lynda Feringa

Offenders who get locked up for Christmas can forget about a special meal from the cops on the big day.

Anyone detained by police gets a basic meal three times a day, every day of the year with the same meals rolled out on Christmas Day as on any other day.

While meals differ from station to station, the quality is much the same.

People who find themselves locked up in Rotorua should be vaguely thankful. Aside from the obvious downside of being locked in a cell, the menu there is a notch above the average.

In the Central North Island district, food brought in by detainees' families is also accepted.

National police policy dictates detainees must be fed "adequate meals", according to Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch.

"As a general rule, a prisoner must be supplied with a meal if they are in custody at a normal meal time.

The quantity of food that is offered is at the discretion of custodial staff, with most food items either apportioned from a bulk supply or a precooked and portioned serving."

Each police district is responsible for setting its own menus, and the food depends on cooking facilities and what is available at each station.

"This might be cereal at breakfast, while lunch and dinner would be either frozen meals, meals from a police canteen or noodles. Vegetarian options are available to those who require them," Mr Rusbatch said.

"The detainee is [also] offered a drink, which would usually be hot/cold water, tea or coffee. Milk and sugar is added as requested. Further liquid refreshments are provided when requested and as time/duties allow."

Police liaise with the Department of Corrections to ensure "dietary nourishment" is consistent. Unlike prisoners in Corrections-run jails, most people held in police cells are released within 72 hours - and often much sooner.

Prisoners in jail receive slightly more substantial meals, though each prisoner's food costs Corrections just $4.50 a day.

Official policy states "no special menu" is offered to prisoners who find themselves in a police cell on Christmas Day.

In Rotorua, at least, Christmas pudding has been offered in the past through Prisoner Aid, police said.

Usually, though, meals are fairly standard.

In Waitemata district, for example, prisoners are served a small packet of corn flakes with milk and sugar sachets for breakfast; lunch is a pie; and dinner consists of frozen pre-prepared meals such as mince and rice, sausages and rice, or pasta. Halal and gluten-free meals can be requested.

South Auckland cell breakfasts are similar. Lunch is two half sandwiches - one cheese, one ham - a fruit muesli bar and a fruit juice. Dinners are reheated frozen plates of meat and pasta with mashed potatoes.

Prison meals

Rotorua police cell
Breakfast
1 x 30g Sanitarium individual serve box of either Weet-Bix, Ricies, Cornflakes
1 x 300ml carton of milk
2 x Chelsea single serve white sugar sachets

Lunch
1 x filled roll, 300mm long containing meat and salad
1 x 125ml Freshup Apple Juice

Dinner
1 x fresh dinner of meat with veges plus potatoes or rice
2 x slices white bread
1 x 300ml carton of milk

Christmas
In a police station cell:
The same as every other day
In prison:
The Christmas meal, served at lunchtime, will consist of roast chicken, gravy, roast potatoes, carrots, green peas, two slices of bread, and an apple pie with custard will be served.
A vegetarian option will be available and special dietary requirements will be catered for.
Dinner will then be sandwiches.

- NZ Herald

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