Awful food being served up to prisoners
THE quality of prison food is under debate after claims the daily allowance is unfit to eat and not enough to satisfy a small child.
Prisoners facing court have complained they are "light-headed" and cannot concentrate after being served just 30g of cereal for breakfast at 4am and soggy, defrosted sandwiches at 1pm.
One District Court judge threatened to abort an assault and robbery trial saying two male prisoners were underfed.
This was after a barrister for an accused robber said the prisoner's intake was so small her three-year-old daughter "would be crazy by lunchtime if that's all she was getting".
News.com.au can also reveal that last year during the four-month so-called Sons of Anarchy trial, Rebels bikies were visibly losing weight on tiny prison meals.
"They were losing weight, they were malnourished, these big blokes getting wet soggy messes of two vegemite and cheese or ham and pickle sandwiches half frozen and half defrosted," said an assistant solicitor working with defence solicitor Maggie Sten on the assault and robbery case.
Another lawyer involved in the case said the meals were "kid size" but "too disgusting" for children to eat.
The accused robbers, whose trial was eventually aborted for other reasons, had survived long days in court on a small bowl of cereal and the sometimes inedible sandwiches.
The assistant lawyer told news.com.au the men were woken in the cells around 4am, fed a Corrective Services NSW breakfast pack of a small sachet of cereal with milk then put on a prison truck.
The truck spent hours picking up different inmates for court appearances and delivering them to complexes such as Sydney's Downing Centre by 9.30am.
"They are then given tea or coffee at 11.30am, and they have their sandwiches provided by a corrections contractor at 1pm," the assistant solicitor told news.com.au.
"By the time the court has finished (usually 4pm) and the truck takes them back (to their respective prisons) it's about 9pm.
"Any meals are left out, cold and there's no way to heat them.
"If they are (involved in a long running) trial, it can go on for days … weeks."
This was the case, the assistant solicitor said, with the eight Rebels bikies on trial in the Downing Centre District Court for months before being acquitted.
The so-called Sons of Anarchy Eight had been charged following an alleged 2014 attack on the leader of a western Sydney Rebels chapter.
The victim was allegedly hog tied with cable leads, burnt with a blowtorch, had his nipples sliced open and his right arm shattered.
The incident attracted the nickname of the TV show Sons of Anarchy, which features ritual attacks on those who leave a fictional outlaw bikie club on bad terms.
The trial began in July last year, with five of the accused in custody including high-ranking Rebels member Chris Rymer, and three on bail.
"These were big boys and they were getting these half frozen, soggy sandwiches," the solicitor told news.com.au. "They were being fed nothing.
"We had problems … Judge Hunt actually made an order that allowed lawyers and families to bring in food which could be taken downstairs to be eaten in the cells.
"Packets of biscuits mostly but (better than) the wet soggy messes five days in a row."
A jury found there was no case against Rymer and his seven Rebels bikie friends and acquitted all eight men.
Rymer later posted pictures on Instagram of himself eating his wife's homemade eggs and bacon and a massive chocolate dessert.
He also joked with Instagram followers about prison food, writing, "I miss tuna & rice" and with his mother, saying "Mum u should see the feeds me (and another inmate) could make with sh***y jail food".
However, it appears the food served in custody is superior to the takeaway meals for court appearances.
According to documents obtained by news.com.au, a barrister for one of the men accused of robbery in the recent trial before District Court Judge Peter Zahra, was so concerned she raised the quality of her client's lunch with the bench.
Lesly Bewsher told Judge Zahra the accused man got two pieces of bread for lunch and might have nothing else all night, and that he had "four stale pieces of bread" with cheese and vegemite the day before.
"The biggest issue with the feeding arrangements is the dinner. See, he gets back into the place of custody and has missed dinner," Ms Bewsher said.
"So, he won't then eat again until 4am tomorrow morning and it's a 30-gram little packet of takeaway cereal that they get, plus two pieces of bread.
"That's the totality of food he's consuming in a day and, frankly, I know my three-year-old daughter would be crazy by lunch time if that's all she was getting."
Judge Zahra - a former defence barrister who has been trying for years to get prisoners at court properly fed - said he would get back to the issue later in the afternoon.
When he did so Judge Zahra said he had discovered inmates were "not given sufficient sustenance … to follow the proceedings or concentrate on the proceedings".
"They've been returning to custody about 8pm and they're given a small meal.
"This is a recurring problem … involved with transporting prisoners from various gaols to come to Court and obviously that they're marshalled very early in the morning.
"As a trial judge, I need to ensure a fair trial and, if that accused person doesn't have enough sustenance, that they're not able to concentrate on the proceedings, then I may need to consider whether proceeding with the trial is an abusive process."
Judge Zahra launched an investigation into "what the sandwich was, what was on the sandwich" of the accused men in his court.
Told by a Corrective Services NSW officer that the accused men received two thawed frozen sandwiches of a variety of fillings, Judge Zahra said he did not want to cause a rise in public expenses to feed the men.
But he said: "If they have not been properly sustained and cannot continue with the proceedings, I have no alternative but to stay the proceedings," he said.
"The only thing is really is that pressure needs to be brought to bear and I suspect that pressure will be brought to bear if I stay proceedings because of the huge cost to the community."
The Downing Centre court complex's Corrective Services officer in charge, Tony Dixon, told Judge Zahra that all the meals provided for prisoners were prepared by a nutritionist.
"I must say that the words 'frozen sandwich then thawed out' and 'nutritionist' in the one sentence didn't sit neatly with me.," Judge Zahra said.
Corrective Services NSW told new.com.au that "inmates who are scheduled to appear in court have ample time and opportunity to consume breakfast at the correctional centre prior to departure".
"While at court inmates receive two sandwiches and a coffee for lunch. Additional sandwiches can be arranged on request.
"Inmates travelling more than two hours to attend court will receive an additional muesli bar and bottle of water. An evening meal is supplied to the inmate upon return to the correctional centre."
A CSNSW spokeswoman said the department fed more than 13,000 inmates daily at a cost of about $10 each.
"Quality control measures are in place at all of our locations to ensure that poor quality food is not issued to offenders," she said.
"All meals provide adequate nutrition and comply with legislated food and health requirements. Inmates can also purchase additional food through the correctional centre grocery list."