Work in Progress
Since its establishment in 1994, VPSG has been researching and highlighting areas where vegans were not offered equal opportunities whilst detained within the Prison System, due to their vegan lifestyle.
Over the years our information was obtained from the work of our Case Workers when they requested assistance from a variety of prison establishments. Gradually we obtained a picture of the overall problems where such prisoners continued to be disadvantaged.
Given that progress varied from prison to prison, we changed our approach. Below outlines the progress made so far. Regular updates are planned for this page in addition to progress on Prison Shops and other news being posted here.
After negotiations with HM Prison Service, from the 1st August two mail-order companies providing vegan toiletries and health supplements were added to the full canteen listing. We feel that the addition of these two companies should ensure vegan prisoners should shortly be able order healthy food choices like nuts, seeds, dried fruit and an iodine supplement (required for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland) and their bodycare/hygiene requirements if not included on their local canteen listing.
We are compiling information received from vegans at various prisons which will be used as part of our ongoing research on this and other minority group issues.
We feel this is a positive approach by the Prison Service to ensure equal opportunities for the minority group we represent.
Update on the Prison Shop Issue on Prison Shops Under the Aramark Contract
Although the majority of our recommendations have been accepted our research confirms that only a few items have started appearing on Canteen Sheets. This continues to leave vegans in prisons disadvantaged - our research shows that the majority of prisons still do not include basic vegan requirements such as:
- hair conditioner
- shaving cream
- soya milk (flavoured or unflavoured)
- soya desserts
- chocolate alternatives etc
Updated Report on this issue will be added to this website in October. This will include a breakdown of our research from information received recently from vegan prisoners which is being collated at present.
VPSG Proposed Projects
VPSG have recently joined forces with The Vegan Society in order to cope with the increasing prisoner work. They will also be supporting our efforts in striving for equal opportunities for vegans detained within the prison system.
Cooking Behind Bars
A vegan cookery book is in the process of being compiled - this will be distributed free to all prisons end 2006. Many prisons have contributed vegan recipes used in their kitchen to cater for this minority group.
Our Catering Information Pack is in the process of being updated August 2006 and will also be distributed free to all prisons end 2006 in conjunction with The Vegan Society.
A cooking demonstration CD is planned for late 2006 early 2007 again for free distribution for prisons in our efforts to keep the care of this minority group updated.
2005 Both P/O Stuart Head (currently Catering Manager at HMP Whitemoor) and Wayne Hodges (Catering Manager HMP Rochester & HMP Cookham Wood) received our first awards to prisons regarding the care of this minority group. 2006's awards will be issued December 2006 and awarded at the appropriate Area Catering Manager Meeting.
Update on the Prison Shop Issue on Prison Shops Under the Aramark Contract
After several "operational difficulties" in the production of the new listing finally Glyn Jones advised us our recommendations had been accepted and would be added to canteen sheets. Assurances were given that vegans would have an item in each section and where none were available facilities for outside purchase would be available.
In July we issued a report which was sent to Director General of the Prison Service and a short list of MPs we felt would be interested in minority group issues. Click here for the report (PDF format).
In response to this report we were assured this minority group issue would be resolved and in July 2005 Fiona Mactaggart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State stated:
Prison Service is in the final stages of creating a Shop product range list for use by all establishments in order to respond constructively to a number of concerns, including those contained in the Commission for Racial Equality report and the VPSG. The full master list will be available to Governors three times a year to enable them to construct their establishment list, having taken advice from Race Relations Management Teams and Faith Advisers and taking account of the ethnic and dietary make-up of prisoners within their establishment. A number of establishments have prisoner consultative committees and this issue is viewed as an important subject for those groups. A revised Prison Service Shop Standard reflecting these planned changes was issued in January 2005.
Access to Shop items has traditionally been achieved by the inclusion of vegan items as special orders which prisoner [sic] order separately to their weekly shop order. Consistent delivery of these items to prisoners has been variable and the concerns previously raised by the VPSG on this issue echo comments made by the CRE concerning the unacceptable service offered to Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) prisoners. It is for this reason and where demand exists the Prison Service plan to have vegan items alongside similar items on the shop list. This does not stop the use of special orders where there are only a small number of prisoners requiring vegan goods who can order that way until the next review of the shop list. The guidance notes to be issued with the Prison Service Product list will also provide advice on the use of special orders and will also be shared with VPSG."
August 2006 update - our research shows only a few basic vegan items have started to appear, still leaving vegans severely disadvantaged and vegan reception packs still remain unavailable.
The following ambient meals which are issued in various police stations are confirmed as suitable for vegans:
- Vegetable Chilli
- Pilau Rice
- White Rice
- Wild and White Rice
Hygiene Products — Prison Issue — sourced
In October 2004 Mr. Garry Pyne finally sourced suitable cost effective hygiene products for the prison issue hygiene products.
These products are: Forest Shave Gel/Hair & Body Wash to join Sejems Freshmint Toothpaste and Chilwoods Pampered Blue Ice Deodorant.
All these items are all vegan and also not tested on animals in order that strict vegans can also use them.
Note: There is still the absence of a suitable bar soap.
Prison Shop Issue - Independent Manangent - Public Sector (ongoing)
Our research shows that the provision of vegan items in prison shops continues to vary from prison to prison under independent management and vegans are catered for either by installing items on canteen listing or via special order.
Prison Shop Issue — Private Sector (ongoing)
Our research shows prison shops under Independent Management also continues to vary but are also happy to ensure vegan products are included when approached. Example: UKDS HMPS Bronzefield started to include vegan items on their prison shop list in just a matter of weeks after the lack of opportunities for this minority group were highlighted.
Prison Shops Under The Aramark Contract - incomplete
The lack of vegan items in prison shops under the Aramark contract were first highlighted to Aramark in 1996 and although a large amount of information/research has been requested by the Prison Shop Team since 2003 the majority of our recommendations still remain uninstalled on canteen sheets and vegans continue to remain disadvantaged at prison shops under their contract.
Early in 2002 The Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Martin Narey stated that equal opportunities would be in place for vegans by the end of 2002 in all areas of their care.
Vegan Catering — complied with the deadline
In line with this commitment Mr. Alan Tuckwood, Head of Catering at HMPS Corby, met the above deadline. In addition in 2003 he assisted, together with P/O Stuart Head [who won the Butler Trust Award for his input into the care of this minority group see Prison Newsheet No 4] in the compilation of our Catering Information Pack now installed in every prison.
In early 2003 during a meeting with Patsy Northern’s Prison/Shop Team at Corby our recommendations were accepted and we were informed that vegan items would shortly be available through prison shops under the Aramark contract. In addition, we were also informed that a Vegan Reception Pack would be provided in Reception Areas.
In December 2003 our liaise on the Prison shop Project VPSG was transferred to Glyn Jones, the Policy Holder for prison shops under the Aramark bagging system. Again considerable research was requested of our organisation on the whole listing to confirm which items were vegan and to make recommendations of one vegan item per section.
The new VPSG Information website was launched to provide information on ongoing concerns and progess updates:
- The purpose of this website will be to not only include useful information on the care of vegans either in Police Custody or detained within the Prison System, but also to highlight particular areas either in Police Stations or Prisons where vegans continue to be disadvantaged.
- It will also include a selection of reports from ex-prisoners [both favourable and unfavourable] on any Police Station or Prison Establishment where they were detained in order to monitor their care.
Update on Prison Shops Under The Aramark Contract
VPSG was invited to attend a Meeting with Contracts and Procurement at HMPS - Corby and our concerns on this subject were discussed and we are optimistic that the concerns we have on Prison Shops under the Aramark contract might finally be resolved.
At this meeting VPSG was requested to provide information that we feel will be useful in providing for this minority group, although we have provided some information, we continue to stress that we feel the only way to ensure that strict ethical vegans within the Prison system are offered equal opportunities is to adopt an already proved system such as the "Special order Scheme" in place at other prisons under independent management.
We stressed that individual prisoners have different nutritional requirements and the only source of supply is their Prison Shop. Such items include specialist nutritional food items, herbal and vitamin supplements and body care products.
The Prison Service assurances regarding vegan items being available through Prison Shops have still not been met by shops under the Aramark contract, although they are in place at some under independent management.
Note: VPSG has been invited to attend a meeting at HMPS Corby next month in order to discuss this subject.
Prison Shops Under Independent Management
The "Special Order Scheme" is the only workable way found so far in order to provide this minority group with their specific requirements.
In our experience it is difficult for proper provision to be made on Canteen Sheets for vegans. Therefore, a number of Prison Shops, under independent management, have accepted our "Special Order Scheme". This scheme ensures certain items for vegans, which other prisoners might not wish to purchase, do not go out of date and therefore, would not prove cost effective to stock and would be then be removed the list. This would mean that when a new vegan prisoner[s] arrived at such an establishment there would be no vegan items for their purchase and no scheme in place for their requirements through this source.
Before this scheme was introduced at these establishments, our research showed that vegan items purchased for inclusion on the Canteen Sheet often went out of date, if a prisoner either:
- was moved to another prison;
- completed his/her sentence; or
- received tagging.
The "Special Order Scheme" is an easy system which requires individual vegan prisoners to produce a list is then submitted to the Canteen Manager, which after approval is then placed through their supplier and issued to the prisoner normally within 2/3 weeks. This scheme ensures no wastage as it is deducted directly from the prisoners allowance.
Additional Improvements HMPS Catering Services
VPSG were impressed that the HMPS Catering Department - Corby were well within the above timescale promised by the Director General of the Prison Service.
In addition, the way in which Mr. Alan Tuckwood [Head of Prison Catering Service] recognised the need of this minority group and the speed with which he dealt with our concerns, was impressive. Also in order to provide his staff with up-to-date information on veganism, he also assisted in the production of the information on this site see "Prison Catering Information" [which is now in place in all prisons]. The joint effort of this document is an example how, with a conscientious approach and a willingness to work with a minority group; a need can be recognised and a solution to try to eliminate related problems can be tackled successfully.
Beverley Hughes wrote:
"Catering Services, the Prison Shop team and Enterprise Services within the Prison Service are working to identify ways in which we can improve current procedures and heighten awareness of the specific needs of vegan prisoners throughout the prison estate.
"Following consultation with The Vegan Society and the Vegan Prisoners Support Group, Catering Services have drawn up additional guidelines on catering for vegan prisoners. These will be issued shortly".
Note: The additional guidelines referred to above were revisions to the PSO5000 despatched to all prisons by HMPS Catering Department - Corby in April 2002. These revisions had the approval of both our organisation and The Vegan Society and it is felt that if fully adhered to by Prison Caterers, it would ensure that vegan prisoners would receive not only a nutritional, well balanced diet, but would also ensure that no cross contamination of their food was possible. We are assured that these revisions will be added to the PS05000 proper when it is next reprinted.
A copy of these revisions are available to Prison Catering Staff from either HMPS Corby or from The Vegan Prisoners Support Group.
The Director General of the Prison Service replied:
"Thank you for your letter of 19th February in which you expressed concerns about the provision and care of vegan prisoners. I am grateful that you have brought these matters to my attention and in particular highlighting individual cases and it would appear that there have been shortfalls in our service delivery.
"I have instructed the Catering Services, Prison Shop team and Enterprise Services within the Prison System to consider all the issues you raised and to identify ways in which we can improve current procedures and heighten awareness to the specific needs of vegan prisoners throughout the prison estate."
His letter went on to say that he "was hopeful to implement changes by the end of 2002".
We wrote to both the Director General of the Prison Service and Beverley Hughes MP regarding our ongoing concerns.