An Interesting Story

Just how much does lifestyle and diet have to do with behaviour and quality of life?  In 1997 a private firm won a bid from the State of California to construct and run a prison that became known as the Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility.  The unique feature of this facility was that it was to offer a lifestyle programme based on the NEWSTART principles (good Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, fresh Air, proper Rest and Trust in divine power).  The programme featured vegan vegetarian meals along with positive interactive activities in a positive atmosphere where inmates could learn a lifestyle of success and productivity.

The state predicted that not five inmates of the five hundred who were to inhabit the facility would go for the programme.  There were two sides to the facility, the NEWSTART side and the side that would run like the rest of the prisons.  When the facility was up and running 85% of the inmates chose to participate in the healthy programme.  As the programme got going, remarkable behavioural changes could even be seen outside in the prison yard where according to prison officials, nobody “owned” or controlled the yard. As had always before been the case in these kinds of facilities, the typical lines drawn between blacks, whites, hispanics, gang members and other groups were non-existent. On the NEWSTART side, everyone played basketball together and had great fellowship. The side using the traditional methods had the same racial and gang divisions experienced at any other prison.

Victor Valley nutrition services coordinator Julianne Aranda explained in an interview that; ‘what we eat not only affects us physically, but it affects our mental attitude, our aggressiveness and our ability to make good decisions’. In interview after interview it was clear that the NEWSTART program staff was in agreement that the mind and body must be cleaned up in order for the inmates to achieve positive behavioural changes.

In testimonials, inmate that participated in this programme shared that, surprisingly, the good-tasting food made them to feel better, have more energy, increased their stamina and reduced problems with acne. 

The effectiveness of a vegan vegetarian diet in rehabilitation has been scientifically validated in other instances and the effects of good nutrition have been conclusively proven to greatly help solve behavioural problems and aggression in school children as well.  When proper nutrition is part of the lifestyle it even impacts the cravings that drive addictions, as the better one feels the less they participate in self-medication to try to create a sense of well being and control emotional and physical pain.