Whole Foods has made the decision to stop purchasing items made by in association with Colorado Prisons as a part of a work program. By April of 2016 they will be out of product and will not be calling for a refill.
According to NPR, “Whole Foods sells a goat cheese produced by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Longmont, and a tilapia from Quixotic Farming, which bills itself as a family-owned sustainable seafood company.” These companies collaborate with Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the Colorado Department of Corrections, which hires prisoners to milk goats and raise fish.
This work program for the inmates teaches them skills and trades to help them with the reintegration process back into society. Reintegration programs like the Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI), not only sell food but they also sell office furniture, air filters and other items to various companies. CCI also serves as a source of income for inmates regrdless of how little the income might be. Above all else, after the inmate has been released, it helps them find stability and jobs in order to prevent recidivism, which is when an inmate is released and ultimately goes back to a life of crime sending them back to jail. In an interview with The Denver Post, Adrienne Jacobson, the Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said, “More than 80 percent of former CCI employees with at least six months of CCI experience don’t commit new crimes after their release from prison, according to a CCI 2014 annual report.”
I don’t understand why Whole Foods would take away an opportunity for inmates to rehabilitate themselves. If customers were upset about the fact that these products came from a jail, why didn’t it matter until now? Just because this information wasnt widely discussed doesnt mean it was impossible to find. This decision from Whole Foods has affected an entire group of people who really aren’t in a position to help or assist themselves. Jobs and programs like these, regardless of how much the inmates are getting paid, help reduce the chances of recidivism and helps the reintegration process. Isn’t that what we want?
If buying food from these organizations who have links with prisons is a huge deal and people don’t wish to eat these products, then I say let’s pull the flag on every contribution that inmates make to society. Inmates have been a source of near-free labor for this country for an extremely long time. I personally have never heard of a complaint until now. I definitely understand the concern that comes with the fact that inmates literally do work for pennies on the dollar and are exploited for their work, but with the work program they also have an income to make calls home and purchase necessities for life inside of jail. Furthermore, they gain skills and tools to now support a legal, safe and productive lifestyle once they are released from jail. The work program helps to turn criminals into law-abiding citizens.
I for one will no longer be a supporter of Whole Foods, because they not only took away an opportunity for people who want to do better and be better for themselves and their families – which could have a domino effect to better society as a whole – but they also took away a potential positive lifestyle that some individuals might not have had access to otherwise.
In my opinion, society as a whole, and Colorado inmates in particular, will suffer from the decision of Whole Foods because it takes away a productive opportunity and now feeds into the common thought that all inmates do is watch television and play cards all day. It also leaves the window of opportunity for released individuals to go back to their old habits and ways of crime because they weren’t given the chance to learn a new craft and potentially a new way to make a living upon release from jail.
Collegian Columnist Chynna Fayne can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ChynnaFayne.