What was the problem?
When Meena was in prison, her two-and-a-half-year-old son Sai lived with her part-time, under a program to reduce the impact of women’s imprisonment on young children. Meena’s family is Hindu. When Sai lived at home with his father, he ate traditional Hindu food considered important for his physical and spiritual development.
Meena tried to do the same for Sai when he stayed with her. She prepared traditional meals in the unit kitchen, until the prison’s supplier stopped stocking the necessary ingredients. To fix the problem, Meena offered to pay for the ingredients herself, or arrange for Sai’s father to deliver them. The prison refused and instead offered to provide Meena with substitute ingredients, but they weren’t appropriate.
“I am not fussed about what food I get, but this is for my son and I cannot let it go... he is not a prisoner,” explained Meena.
What did the Ombudsman look at?
While prisons understandably restrict items that can be brought in for security reasons, Sai was entitled to have his cultural rights upheld. Noting the ingredients Meena needed had a long shelf life, did not require refrigeration and could be bought locally in bulk, the Victorian Ombudsman asked the prison to consider options.
What was the outcome?
In response to the Ombudsman’s enquiries, the prison agreed to place a monthly order at a local supermarket and Meena agreed to pay for the ingredients and delivery. In the end, Sai was able to enjoy traditional food and time with both his parents.
Source: Office of the Victorian Ombudsman, Australia