From lamb kofta to grilled halloumi, a Canberra jail has shared what its prisoners eat.


No doubt Hollywood has played a part in depicting the food in jail as bland, monotonous and tasteless, however it seems the reality might not be as dull as we think.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) – a jail located in Canberra – has revealed details about the food its prisoners are given everyday – and the menus sound surprisingly tasty and nutritious.

Obtained by the ABC, the AMC – who say they are a “human rights compliant” jail – has shared their menus for spring, summer and winter of last year, which were designed in part by a certified nutritionist.

Some of the dinners on offer include grilled halloumi, zucchini fritters and Thai beef noodle salad, and there are even desserts like chocolate and vanilla marble cake on offer.

A few of the dishes are a bit more run of the mill – mac and cheese and corned silverside are staples – and apparently desserts are only available a couple of times a week. But still, it’s a far cry from the slop we have seen depicted on shows such as Orange is the New Black.

With a set menu, the prisoners do not get much choice around what or when they eat. But with meat, vegetarian, vegan and halal options all available to cater for any of the prisoner’s dietary requirements, the menu certainly refutes the common misconception around jail food.


“We have hopefully an understanding that people are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment,” criminologist Lorana Bartels told the ABC.

“If you’re locked up in your cell, and you’re eating your meal in your cell, that means you’re eating often in the same room as your toilet.

“I don’t think we need to exacerbate that deprivation by serving poor quality food.”

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Bartels also pointed out the importance of a nutritious diet, and the benefits that can come from the prisoners eating healthy food.  With many often coming into jail with less-than-ideal diets, Bartels told the ABC that this could be a good time to boost their eating habits.

“There’s often a whole range of behaviours that are problematic, and if while people [are] in prison they can be taught to have healthier behaviours around food and nutrition, then that may contribute to them functioning better back in the community.”