I have many vegan friends. I am mostly vegitarian, but I do Occ eat animal protein. My bad.
Absolutely read the comments. They are just as interesting as the article, if not more so.
Depends where you are incarcerated. For 2 1/2 years, I taught Creative Writing in the Education Unit for a California state prison. Attending my class was a privilege mostly because the students went to early chow in order to attend on time. Also, I had access to a coffee pot donated by a church. There were Vegan, Muslim, and Kosher meals. Probably a few others I wasn't aware of. Lots of salad for the vegans. The prison had a working farm and dairy onsite but overall, the food tends to be overcooked and starchy -- the kind of food that robs you of your initiative for anything other than napping and crapping -- but it isn't outright terrible. The only time I considered the food to be less than sustainable was during lockdowns. Inmates received sack meals -- a bologna (single slice) sandwich on white bread (vegans would get cheese sandwiches), a scrawny apple or orange, a nutrition bar or hunk of cheese, and if I recall correctly, a liquid (water, juice or milk) in a carton container. After a couple of days of this, even my best, most well-adjusted students were edgy and ravenous.
Some reading this post will be tempted to say, "Good!!! These criminals did the crime, let 'em do the time! What the hell are they doing taking writing classes and eating kosher meals on tax payer dollars, anyway?" It's a fair question. I can tell you that I received as many thank yous from veteran guards as I did from the inmates. Go through a lockdown or behavioral incident and you're more than tempted not to come back. One guard explained it this way, "We're always understaffed. Three guards with guns can only smoothly manage a unit with hundreds of inmates if the inmates let us. Amenities like Spanish TV for the Latino population, the EDU (my unit), the weight yard and early chow, all make for model inmates. They learn to be incentivized." Take those things away and essentially you no longer have good, positive roll model inmates on one side and bad inmates on the other -- you just have inmates... and no real means to control the population except with threat of force and restrictions. Of course, there were guards who leaned hard on the inmates no matter what. The older guards called them "Billy Bad Asses." (My cousin is a guard at Sing Sing and he went from BBA to "friendly but not friends.") He learned that Billy Bad Asses tend to mellow over time or flame out and quit. Some call it "getting institutionalized." Happens to both staff and inmates. In orientation, we were told by the prison administration that 70% of the inmates had been exposed to child abuse and for about 20% that involved molestation. That in no way condoned the actions of what the inmates had done to land in prison; however, it was an insight into what may have caused some of these people to not trust authority figures like parents, cops, teachers, social workers and judges. Getting such inmates to buy into "follow the rules and get rewarded" was a big deal.
About two years into my stint, we had a governor running for president who suddenly got gung-ho three strikes to grab headlines. He made a big deal about taking out cable TV in the common room, not caring that in a rural area that was only way to get a Spanish language station. So instead of controlling Mexican gang bangers for $100 a month with Telemundo game shows, you had hundreds of inmates with nothing to do but create schemes and mischief. I can tell you from personal experience that all the political grandstanding created a more dangerous environment. When the new governor came back in, I heard they quietly brought it all back. By then, I was long gone. Ours was what is called a "zero hostage yard" and you signed a piece of paper saying that you understand that in the event of an uprising, the guards might consider shooting to kill regardless of hostages. I had become a dad and could no longer risk it. A lot of good people felt the same way and left, too.
I have been to three prisons in my capacity as a teacher, two state and one federal. It's important to clarify that the unit where I taught for 2 1/2 years was in a Level 1 yard. These are inmates who got their points down (say, someone is convicted of manslaughter but has served, say, 12-16 years without incident and is about to parol out in 6 months). About 70% were in for drug related offenses. In and out in a year. Some called it "summer camp for cons." Most just wanted to do their time and go home, but a few were there to cement a career as criminals and build their rep. "Level 1 Killers," other inmates called them. Those were people to watch out for. Of course, they never made it onto my unit. I had occasion to be in the Levels 2-5 units, Level 5 being what I called the "Silence of the Lambs guys," It's a totally different world of quantum danger in those places.
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