In 1999, Eric Vandennoort was living a life that most of us only read about or see on television. He was homeless and his life was one of substance abuse, petty crimes and run-ins with the law. In fact, his rap sheet became so long that a California judge finally got fed up and threw him into prison instead of the County jail. This judge had no idea that his decision would change Eric’s life forever.
Like most inmates, Eric was moved around within the California prison system and the luck of the draw landed him at the Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility. A change of diet and lifestyle were nowhere on his mind, so, when Eric was asked whether he wanted to live on the vegan side or the side that offered the regular California Corrections programs, his only concern was whether the Vegan side offered tobacco. He had heard that the vegan wing offered better treatment so he figured “as long as I have my tobacco, how bad can a vegan diet really be”.
Eric landed a job in the kitchen working for Julianne Aranda, the nutrition coordinator. As he went through the structured program offered on the “vegan side”, he found himself learning not only from Julianne, but from all the nutrition classes that were offered. Eric also took bible studies being given by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “The Adventist church was experimenting with a holistic approach to addictions”, recalls Eric. “They had a program called NEW START where every letter stood for something”. The NEW START acronym stands for Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust in God.
Over a six month period, Eric would see his life change completely. The holistic approach to rehabilitation that included both a vegan diet and spiritual training had a deep and lasting impact on his life. He began reading good books, he quit smoking and his entire attitude toward life took a positive spin. “[The facility] was a breath of fresh air”, said Eric.
On July 11, 1999 Eric Vandennoort walked out of the Victor Valley facility a new man. “From the day I left, I have never used drugs again or taken another drink”. In fact, today, he is happily married and is working as a licensed drug and alcohol counselor in New Port Beach, California.
“They broke a chain for me with diet and spiritual intervention”, says Eric. “I owe it all to them. I no longer have to push a cart around on the streets.”
– See more at: http://vegetarianspotlight.com/2012/saved-by-a-vegan-prison/#sthash.PrSv1Yc6.dpuf