What tops the grocery list of NSW inmates?

The state’s 13,000 inmates purchased groceries worth about $25 million in the past year, with tinned tuna, instant noodles and soft drink among the most popular food items on the NSW prison ‘buy-ups’ scheme.

Corrective Services NSW provides inmates with only basic food and clothing, so the buy-up system allows them to purchase additional items using their wages or money deposited in their account by families and friends.

Commissioner Peter Severin said the Corrective Services Industries scheme is an important behaviour management tool and saved taxpayers’ money.

“The costs of the items are met by the inmates and the revenue generated covers facilities and operational costs,” Mr Severin said.

“The ability to purchase these goods allows inmates an opportunity to develop a sense of personal responsibility and learn how to budget.”

“These skills can assist them when they leave prison and reintegrate into the community.”

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,” Mr Elliott said.

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.

The top purchases at NSW correctional centres during 2017 were:

  1. Singapore noodles – 413,980 packets;
  2. Tinned tuna in oil – 411,403 tins;
  3. Orange drink powder – 408,190 sachets;
  4. Cola-flavoured soft drink – 310,304 cans; and
  5. Hot and spicy noodles – 327,320 packets.

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.  

“Around 190 inmates are currently employed in the buy-up service who pick, pack and process buy-ups across the state while learning skills in warehousing and logistics.”