We’ve talked about prisons who give their inmates meals consisting almost entirely of soy solely for the purpose of saving money, despite the overwhelming evidence showing that excessive soy intake is dangerous for the human body.  What if the opposite took place and prisons developed an extraordinary vegan diet for their inmates in hopes of improving their lives and minimizing aggression?

If the track record of a certain prison in California is any indication, switching to a vegan diet can definitely make a huge impact on inmates, and significantly lower the chance that a released convict will be rearrested.

The NEWSTART Program is Born

This prison, which was located in Adelanto, California, was the brainchild of Terry Mooreland.  Mooreland was the CEO of Maranatha Private Corrections LLC, and became the winning bidder for a project that was meant to build a private prison in the late 90’s; a time when the current prison system was quickly filling up and external help was needed in the form of privately-owned penitentiaries.  Eventually, the Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility was completed and the innovation began.

From the very beginning, newly arriving inmates were given two choices: reside on one side of the prison where everything was exactly like any other prison that operated under the standard California Department of Corrections guidelines and meal plans; or, go to the other side of the prison that embraced the “NEWSTART” program.

This unique program featured an exclusively vegan diet, bible studies, anger management, and job training.  The NEWSTART program was originally met with speculation, and the State of California initially believed that less than one percent of the inmates coming in would willfully choose a vegan diet.  Indeed, the opposite was true – over 85 percent of the inmates picked the NEWSTART program over the regular living conditions.

The results?  Not only did a friendlier, non-divisive environment exist in the prison yard, but the inmates gradually became less aggressive in general.  Most importantly, the percentage of former inmates who were later rearrested dropped to less than two percent.  Compare this to the State of California’s average rate of 95 percent, and it becomes apparent that something good was really happening here.

Unfortunately, the privately-owned prison was shut down after only seven years of operation because of an argument over phone revenue that ultimately led to the cancellation of the contract. Unfortunate, indeed.

A Lesson Learned

It’s interesting to note that in addition to the better behavior, inmates reported having more energy and stamina, minimized acne, and clearer minds.  Increased expenses aside, if having a vegan diet can help contribute to a lower crime rate, why aren’t more prisons doing that?  Going one step further, if a vegan diet can have this kind of impact on the lives of inmates, what could it do to us?

Cited Sources

“Vegan Diet Impacts California Prison.” Vegetarian Spotlight. Jan. 2011. Web. 6 June 2012. <https://vegetarianspotlight.com/2011/vegan-diet-impacts-california-prison/>.

“Vegetarian Food Goes to Jail.” Vegetarians in Paradise: News from the Nest. Web. 6 June 2012. <https://www.vegparadise.com/news18.html>.

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