Vegans in Jail

So tonight I learned that Ira Black, guitarist for Lizzie Borden, was in the Los Angeles County jail system this month for a misdemeanor charge. Since I don't know anything about Ira Black that news didn't make much of an impression. However, Mr. Black was on a hunger strike... why you ask? Because the prison system does not offer vegan/vegetarian fare to the prisoners. Now I can see the institution's point of view. If they had to cater to every individuals diet they'd have their hands full, and it's a prison after all, not a country club! But they do make exceptions for religious beliefs and medical diets.

Personally, I'm not a huge proponent of prisoners rights.  If you commit a crime and wind up in jail, you're there to be punished, you're not on vacation.  Having said that, I do understand the need to ensure the basic needs of prisoners are met.  But I don't think that means catering to everyones varied diets.  I don't know how prisoners are fed.  I envision a cafeteria line with a few basic selections.

The county might do well to consider feeding all inmates a vegan diet. It would cost the taxpayers a lot less to feed the prisoners, and it would be beneficial for the inmates health, also resulting in a cost savings to the county/taxpayers, especially for those long term prisoners. You've probably all heard about California's fiscal woes ($40 billion deficit), so cost savings should be reason enough to consider transitioning the prison system to a vegan based diet.  I'm off to draft a letter to the prison system.

If you'd like to contact the Los Angeles County jail, you can write to them at:

(It appears Black was released from jail on the 14th.  Source: The LA County Sheriff's Department Inmate Information Center.)


  1. I agree with cake that jail does NOT automagically mean you are guilty of anything! But in this case it does sound like the guy was convicted of something.

    I’ve not spent time in jails or prisons as a customer, but I have been to quite a few as a contractor for security consulting and specialized security equipment and I think your opinion about serving vegan food is quite wrong.

    For starters it’s mandated in every jail/prison system I had experience with that kosher, halal, etc religion restrictions be respected. Additionally, diets for health reasons like diabetes are respected also. It’s not that much of a stretch for these institutions to do vegan meals that just accidentally happen to be kosher/halal/health compatible!

    From what I saw most jails (not prisons) had two meal options… your choice of either a bologna sandwich or a PB&J sandwich. The bread on either sandwich was the cheapest low-bidder white bread that could be found and was always made with lard and milk powder since those are cheap ingredients. The bologna sandwich had one slice of dead animal and one measured tsp. of yellow mustard. The PB&J had one measured tbsp of govt. surplus peanut butter and one measured tbsp of USDA grape jelly. Jail inmate rations consisted of three of these sandwiches per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner). There’s no cafeteria in jail BTW, the jailers delivered the “meal” to the cells for security purposes (no need to supervise inmates between cell and cafeteria).

    The private prisons I worked at were quite similar to jails in that meals were served in cells but they made darn sure that prisoners were happy with the food! It’s MUCH cheaper in the long run to have prisoners that are happy with their meals. One single prison riot over carp food costs a lot more than catering to everones food preferences! Federal prisons do good food for the same reason but they usually DO have cafeteria type operations (with the exception of their cushy minimum security facilities where the inmates can cook their own meals in their own kitchens!).

    All most any JAIL has to do to offer vegan fare is spend a few more cents to buy vegan friendly bread, peanut butter and jelly. Is that really so much to ask?

  2. You said, “If you commit a crime and wind up in jail, you’re there to be punished, you’re not on vacation. ”

    That’s not exactly true. Jail, in the US, is for people who haven’t been convicted. And also, in the US, you’re innocent until proven guilty. So… maybe you mean prison?

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