Connecticut Growing Gardens at Prisons to Cut Food Costs
While Connecticut’s decision to have prisoners grow some portion of their own food is a positive development for several reasons (the health of the prisoners being the main one), let’s make sure that we’re seeing the big picture and understand that the prison industrial complex is just about the most diabolical aspect of the American Corporate State.
The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world at 754 persons in prison or jail per 100,000 (as of 2008). A report released Feb. 28, 2008 indicates that more than 1 in 100 adults in the United States are in prison. The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population and 23.4% of the world’s prison population.
The fact that people are incarcerated for victimless crimes (Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do by Peter McWilliams) is absurd and odious.
At a maximum-security prison in England, Gesch and a team of British scientists enrolled 231 prisoners in a study designed to test the effects of over the counter supplements containing vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. They tracked the prisoners’ behavior for nine months before administering vitamins, tallying the incidents of “antisocial behavior,” which can run the gamut from mouthing off to a guard to starting fights with other inmates. They also observed the prisoner’s diets. Overall, he says, the prison offered healthy choices and most inmates were getting close to the recommended doses of vitamins. But, Gesh says, “a lot of the prisoners were not getting the nutrients they needed because of poor choices…You could have salad and artichokes in béchamel sauce but what they chose to eat was the pile of chips.”
To supplement prison diets, the study randomly selected half of the prisoners to receive vitamin supplements for the following nine months, while the other half received a placebo. Over those nine months, researchers saw instances of antisocial behavior plummet in the group receiving vitamins, while the placebo group’s behavior remained virtually the same. Minor offenses fell by 33% among the vitamin group, and serious offenses, including violence, fell 37%.
These results may be surprising to some, but not to Stephen Schoenthaler. A professor of criminology and sociology at Cal State Stanislaus, Shoenthaler has been studying the effects of vitamins on inmates in California for the last 20 years. In a study among young offenders in California, Shoenthaler found that young adult men receiving vitamin supplements showed a 38% drop in serious behavior problems. In a large study of prison diets in California, New York, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Florida, he found that prisoner’s eating habits could be used to predict future violent behavior. “Normally, you’d say the best predictor of violence is how people behaved in the past,” Shoenthaler says. “We found that’s not as good a predictor as looking at people’s diets.”
Conclusions: Poor nutritional habits in children that lead to low concentrations of water-soluble vitamins in blood, impair brain function and subsequently cause violence and other serious antisocial behavior. Correction of nutrient intake, either through a well-balanced diet or low-dose vitamin-mineral supplementation, corrects the low concentrations of vitamins in blood, improves brain function and subsequently lowers institutional violence and antisocial behavior by almost half. This paper adds to the literature by enabling previous research to be generalized from older incarcerated subjects with a history of antisocial behavior to a normal population of younger children in an educational setting.
The greenhouse at the Corrigan-Radgowski prison is filled with about 8,000 seedlings — tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers– ready to be planted in prison gardens across Connecticut.
Inmates will plant and tend the gardens, which the state is hoping will save it thousands of dollars each year in food costs.
Corrections Commissioner Brian Murphy wants each of the state’s 18 state prisons to find space for a garden this summer. Those that already have gardens are being asked to expand them.
“Any facility that has some green space for this, we want to utilize it,” said Andrius Banevicius, a department spokesman. “Some will be bigger than others.”
With state’s across the nation facing budget problems, prison systems are finding creative ways to do more with less, said Bob May, associate director of the Association of State Correctional Administrators.
A county sheriff in northern Ohio decided last year to make inmates grow their own food to cut costs. But May said he’s not aware of another state doing it for that reason.
“They like growing something. And some of these guys haven’t seen a fresh vegetable in 15, 20 years.”