Quakers and prison staff to meet about flower ban

7:27 am on 19 December 2016

Mt Eden prison management will meet today with the Quakers to discuss its sudden ban on the group delivering Christmas flowers to inmates.

An Auckland Transport train passes by Mt Eden prison

It may be too late to get 400 posies prepared in time for Christmas, even if Mt Eden prison does change its position. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The delivery of around 400 posies have been made every year since Word War I.

Corrections has told the group it cannot deliver this year because the flowers are a security risk.

That decision is now under review.

But it may now be too late to get the 400 posies prepared in time for a Christmas Eve delivery, the Quakers' northern clerk, Linley Gregory said.

"It would be difficult but I think we would really seriously talk about doing it," she said.

Department of Corrections national commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said in a statement he had asked Mt Eden prison to review its decision.

"Corrections recognises the importance the Quakers put on this gesture at this time of year and their desire to provide the flowers to prisoners, The prison director will be meeting with the Quakers and the Prison Fellowship on Monday to discuss an appropriate way for the flowers to be delivered and ensure the security of the prison is maintained."

Prison Chaplaincy Service chairperson John Jamieson said Mt Eden, like prisons all over the country, had been tightening up its security.

"If contraband has been getting in, and I think it probably has at times at Mt Eden, then they'd look very closely at anyone bringing anything in.

My view is the Quakers would never do a thing like that. They've got full respect for the law, full respect for prison management and certainly they are trying to do good things as far as prison security is concerned."

Prison reform advocate Paul Wood, a former inmate himself, said Corrections' decision to ban the flowers "lacked judgement" and he was glad it was reviewing it.

"All prisoners normally hear about is the desire for people in prison to be punished more harshly and for longer periods, neither of which inspires hope.

"A small act of kindness that the Quakers are showing serves as a real counterpoint to this and role models the idea of compassion to a section of society that often lacks first hand experience of it," he said.

Prisoners needed to be shown kindness and consideration if they were expected to model that behaviour themselves once released, he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Linley Gregory from the Quakers who said the Christmas posies were often the only bit of greenery a prisoner sees while at Mt Eden at what can be a very lonely time of year.