NYS Certified Nutritionist

California Plant-Based Inmates Win in Court

A lawsuit sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine defended the right of California’s inmates to consume a plant-based diet without having to claim their choice is based on the teachings of their religion.

Lawyers argued their inmate clients should be able to select plant-based meals as a fundamental right to basic human necessities, like bedding, clothing, and wholesome meals, even in prison, …independent of religious affiliation.

The California Superior Court’s ruling ensures inmates are no longer required to declare a religious affiliation before receiving plant-based meals. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had been found to be “collecting information on the religious affiliation of inmates who request the plant-based diet, in direct contravention of…”state law.

For nearly two years, inmates were repeatedly denied plant-based meals in California prisons. The Department of Corrections placed obstacles in the form of religious inquiries to make the free selection of healthier food choices more difficult. The lawsuit stated inmates were entitled, by statute, to select the meal options of their choice, and the court decided in their favor.

This case has led to a new California law, SB1138, ensuring California’s inmates will now be free to select plant-based meals without unnecessary inquiries which might discourage them from consuming healthier meals. At its best, this law is a positive step, setting an example for other states to follow.

Dateline: Town of Colonie, Albany County, New York State