Baywatch star Pamela Anderson fed Arizona prisoners a meat-free lunch on Wednesday and they appeared to like it. Anderson visited the Maricopa County Jail at the invitation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who took meat off jailhouse menus in September 2013 as we previously reported. The vegetarian policy has saved the county at least $200,000 a year, the sheriff’s office estimates.
“I believe people can be rehabilitated from the inside out,” Pamela said in a statement. “Jails are full of people wanting to change, to make amends, to learn healthier habits and understand compassion and empathy.”
“I don’t know why every other jail and prison wouldn’t want to copy what we’ve accomplished here,” Arpaio said. “It works on every level: financially for the taxpayer, healthwise for the inmate.” His inmates’ meals, Arpaio said, “are both nutritious and well balanced, and lower in cost than you’ll find in any other jail anywhere.”
The road to a vegetarian diet sometimes follows an unusual route. In this case it started out as measure instituted by a controversial Sheriff to make a harsh environment for inmates. Then it was to save money on the food, and later on the healthcare costs of the prisoners. And now, finally, the Sheriff himself. The 82 year old Arpaio started his own vegetarian diet on Wednesday.
The benefits of a vegetarian diet go beyond health in a prison setting. Several studies have now linked better nutrition to behavioral improvements as well. Let’s hope the veg-in-prison trend continues.
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.