Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Vegan Prisons January 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 8:45 pm
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I’m at work right now, and decided to cruise the blogosphere, and stumbled across PETA’s Top 10 Most Vegetarian Friendly Prison’s List. Given that people of color make up at least 70% (as of 1998, I couldn’t find more recent data right away), I thought the list was relevant, but what does it mean for people of color? Notice how comments make it out to be a special privilege to have veg*n foods. Also I’d just like to point out that I’m biased into thinking there is something wrong with the list because I just don’t like PETA.

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6 Responses to “Vegan Prisons”

  1. vegansofcolor Says:

    I wonder how prisons are for catering to religious dietary restrictions? And if those same people who think that it’s a special privilege to have access to veg*n food in prison would feel the same way about that? I feel like generally people are more accommodating to special diets if they’re tied to religion, whereas veganism is “just a personal preference” or something.

  2. Neva Says:

    I used to volunteer teaching in a prison. I taught only women by the way.

    I was amazed how really poor the food was in many ways. It all seemed high fat and no veggies, or only small amounts of over-cooked or canned green beans. Many of the inmates suffered health problems, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc that could have been helped by diet. Also people in prison have a lot of time on their hands which would give them time to understand nutrition better and make more changes in their eating habits.

    It is unusual to see people calling a vegan diet a privilege, but I do find the general public is grossly ignorant about prisons in general. When I told some people I was teaching inmates they remarked that this was unfair as many law abiding people would like free classes but don’t get them.

    However, many of the people I was teaching were minorities and were doing prison time for things I observed many white college students doing openly, ie minor drug offenses. Additionally these were people who would have limited options on release due to the stigma of conviction and a lack of education. So anything that could be done to help them wasn’t just for them, it was an investment in the larger society as well.

    Likewise, I see serving healthier foods as something that is going to help people live better lives, feel better, and as a result hopefully reintegrate with society on release.

    However, it does seem pointless unless we can reform the whole system to try to keep non-violent people out of our prisons, and perhaps do more on the community and educational level to help people find law-abiding employment and stay away from drugs and crime. And it seems kind of meaningless when we persist in a system that punishes minorities disproportionately for such offenses.

    Huge sigh. Too much of the US public sees prisons as places where people ought to suffer in terms of bad food, hard labor, and humiliation. We seem a punishment-oriented culture and that’s reflected in our high prison populations. It’s sad that we can’t take a more healing approach.

  3. vegansofcolor Says:

    Neva — thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree w/you on the punishment-oriented culture thing… one of the arguments for prison time is supposedly rehabilitation, right? But it seems too often that it’s just lip service.

    Also, re: release & limited options for re-integration — it also doesn’t help that in many states former prisoners are legally barred from voting, or that the procedure for regaining their franchise is so complicated or obscure that it might as well be legally forbidden. I have a lot of cynicism about voting, myself, but @ the end of the day it remains one of the bottom-line, first step ways to become involved & invested in society. (& who can forget, of course, the FL voting debacle — & oh, who happen to make up most of the disenfranchised felons in FL? People of color…)

  4. Felicia Says:

    Neva made some very good points. Particularly the mention of the illnesses that afflict many prisoners. Lest we forget, that medical care is also provided to them. I think if the people who are against offering a vegetarian option to prisoners truly understood the health benefits, they’d fight to make it MANDITORY for all prisons. If for no other reason, then to see the big drop in medical costs!

    Also, you can’t send people to prison, treat them like wild animals while they’re in there and then expect them to come out and behave as model citizens. The more civilized people are forced to live in prison, the more likely they will continue that same behavior upon release.

    Thats just my 2.5 cents . . .

  5. Neva Says:

    Thanks. It’s not just voting. Landlords discriminate as do employers–it can be hard to find a job or a place to live if people are honest about their records.

  6. vegansofcolor Says:

    Felicia — good point re: the benefit in terms of reduced cost of medical care as an angle to use. I wonder if the meat & dairy industry would get all crazy lobbying against that. Wait, I don’t wonder. I suspect they would, of course!

    Neva — absolutely… I remember applying for various retail jobs in my life & seeing the question about felony convictions. I am sure that, despite the little disclaimer saying that saying yes wouldn’t bar you automatically from employment, that often it does. Sigh.


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