Until recently prisoners at Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility in Adelanto, California could choose vegan meals under a program called NewStart which also included Bible study, job training and anger management. According to one source, violence decreased significantly for those inmates who chose the vegan meal plan and the behavioral program.
Also the recidivism rate, (rate of re-arrest) for their released inmates was only two percent, but the state average in California is over 90 percent, according to another source.
Victor Valley nutrition services coordinator Julianne Aranda has been quoted on the main reasons why they offered a plant-based menu option for inmates, saying, “what we eat not only affects us physically, but it affects our mental attitude, our aggressiveness and our ability to make good decisions.” (Source: Vegetarian Spotlight)
At first, state officials assumed none or very few of the prisoners would choose the plant-based diet and training provided by the NewStart program. However, 85 percent did select the alternative diet and they participated in the learning opportunities.
Those who participated and did not eat meat reportedly underwent significant attitude changes, so much so they no longer identified with racial groups, which previously caused tension, and they actually played basketball together in the common space instead of remaining apart from one another.
An Indian news site published a quote for a California official indicating positive inmate changes: “there is a noticeable difference in the personalities of the vegetarian inmates. They smile more, are fully racially integrated, attend religious classes and anger management classes eagerly. Within 10 days, the vegan inmates express improvement in how they feel.” (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
Apparently the NewStart program was dropped though, due to some administrative conflict which forced the prison leaders to end it over the handling of phone revenues.
A documentary about the NewStart program was made, and you can see a Web video here.
Image Credit: Zeetz Jones / Creative Commons