The aims of the VPSG are to
- give moral and practical support where needed
- help to obtain vegan food for prisoners or anyone arrested whilst in custody
- help to obtain vegan toiletries for prisoners
- highlight and work to improve the inadequate facilities for vegans in prison shops
- campaign for equal rights for vegan prisoners
How The VPSG Started
The Vegan Prisoners Support Group (VPSG) was formed in April 1994 when it was realised that a specialist group was needed to fight for equal rights for vegans detained in prison establishments.
Weaving our way through Home Office Regulations was no easy task but our efforts and persistence slowly started to show results, although we soon found we had to start from scratch with each prison.
Expanding The VPSG
In 1996 two vegan prisoners at one establishment contacted us complaining that they had been given cold corn on the cob for their Christmas Dinner so we realised that we needed to ensure that all prisons needed a pack on the care of this minority group. Our Catering Information Pack has now been provided to every prison which contains a wealth of information on this specialist subject and also some vegan recipes too.
Getting Prison Guidelines In Place
We campaigned to ensure appropriate policies which would apply to all prisons, and in 1996 our guidelines on the care of vegans within the prison system were accepted. These were shortly after put in place in all prison establishments. Unfortunately, although we now have proper guidelines in place, ensuring they are fully implemented in all prisons still takes up a lot of our time.
However, over the past few years we have gained much knowledge of how the Prison Service works and now prisoners have access to help 7 days a week via the VPSG helpline, which most vegan prisoners take advantage of at one time or another.
How We Help
Although we mainly help prisoners to obtain vegan food, vegan toiletries, vegan footwear and help wherever we can when requested, obviously we are always prepared to take up human rights issues for the prisoners when the need arises.
We also offer help to vegans detained in police stations - all they need to do is to phone the details of the problem to the emergency arrest helpline and help will be offered.
Our work has trebled in the past eight years, over which time we have discovered that problems for vegans in prisons or police custody are more widely spread than initially thought. To this end, we now liaise closely with the Vegan Society, and also campaign to bring relevant issues to the attention of the prison service. For more information on our work, please send us a stamped, self-addressed envelope.