America’s First Vegetarian Jail

Maricopa County Jail

Maricopa County Jail

Inmates in Arizona’s Maricopa County jail system, totaling roughly 8,000 in number, will no longer be eating meat, in what has just become America’s first all vegetarian jail system. The Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, explained that he’s taking his prison system vegetarian and says that “there will be no more meat on the menu.” The jail will replace meat with protein-rich soy products. Arpaio recently explained his decision by  donning a chef’s hat and displaying a dish of soy, carrots, peas and other vegetables. “It looks great. It looks like stew,” Arpaio said “I’m getting hungry…and we’ll save $100,000.”

We’ve written before about studies linking prison nutrition with better outcomes. While saving money seems to be the initial motivation at this point the ripple effect on the inmate’s health and overall behavior and rehabilitation is likely to be quite substantial. Perhaps this is the beginning of a trend.

Hearing about the Arizona jail’s switch, already a letter has been sent by an animal rights group to the chief executive of the UK’s National Offender Management Service, telling him to follow Sheriff Arpaio’s example.  They offered to pay for a vegan chef to prepare a new menu for Her Majesty’s Prison Service. The letter claims that switching to plant-based meals “is a great way to save money and reduce violence” and that it would save money on health care as “vegetarians are less prone to obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes than meat eaters are.”

Please note: Sheriff Arpaio is a controversial figure who many consider to be overly harsh in other aspects of running the county jails. We do not condone insensitive treatment of anyone including prisoners. We report here on only an issue of vegetarian concern.