Australiia : Christmas in prison: How female inmates cope and support each other a "sad and lonely" time

December 25th can be a chaotic mix of cheer and stress, but above all, it is a time of year dedicated to family. While most celebrate with their loved ones, for those in prison, Christmas is a complicated matter.

“It has a bit more of an impact on the women,” said Superintendent Julie Steineuer from Numinbah Correctional Centre. “Clearly they’d be quite sad being away from their kids and their families.”*

So what is Christmas Day like for those serving time behind bars?

“I miss time with my family”

Several inmates at the Numinbah Correctional Centre anonymously responded to written questions asking about Christmas in prison.

“Lynette” said she organised a Secret Santa between “house members” or inmates, with items purchased from a small shop run inside the centre.

“We try to spend the day altogether,” she said.

“I miss time with my family especially my children … I have made Christmas cards for my children.”

“Jane” said she plans to “play board games with house members, backing lunches and desserts”, but missed “buying presents for loved ones”.

But for the most part, Christmas Day runs much like any other day at the Numinbah Correctional Centre, with inmates restricted to phone calls for their family and no visiting hours scheduled.

Instead, inmates are given extended visiting hours on Boxing Day.

Christmas Day a “sad and lonely” time

Superintendent Steineuer said Christmas Day at Numinbah Correctional Centre, a low security facility for around 100 women on the Gold Coast Hinterland, is “pretty similar to most other days”.

“We don’t have any visits on that day so for the women out here the day is similar to normal,” Superintendent Steineuer said.

“The women themselves are actually quite a supportive group, they rally around and help each other and support each other.”

Morning exercise runs as usual, including work at the centre’s farm, while the women have access to their normal allotted time for phone calls and support services.

But Superintendent Steineuer said inmates are given roast chicken and vegetables for lunch.

“There is definitely a different feel at this time, the time leading up to Christmas can be equally as sad and lonely a time for the women as the actual day,” she said.

“A lot of them are involved in scrapbooking and they make cards that they send out to their families.”

“That personal touch of being able to make something for their families to send out for them to have on Christmas Day, I think really contributes to helping them get through this period of time.”