Whole Foods will stop sourcing foods produced by prison inmates after a group concerned with incarceration rates staged a protest at one of its Texas stores over the weekend.
According to NPR
, tilapia, trout, and cheese that has stocked the grocer's shelves since 2011 were sourced from Colorado Correctional Industries, which employs about 1,800 inmates for 74 cents to $4 a day, plus performance bonuses.
"We felt that supporting suppliers who found a way to be part of paid, rehabilitative work being done by inmates would help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society," Whole Foods spokesman Michael Silverman said in a statement.
"We have heard from some shoppers and members of the community that they were uncomfortable with Whole Foods Market's sourcing products produced with inmate labor," he continued.
Silverman then announced that food sourced from CCI would be completely gone from store shelves by April 2016 at the latest.
Protest organizer Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston, said in previous interviews that the low-wage labor is exploitative, and that in-state prison-work programs are not subject to federal regulation.
"People are incarcerated and then forced to work for pennies on the dollar — compare that to what the products are sold for," he said. "They say they care about the community, but they're enhancing their profit off of poor people," he told The Associated Press
Colorado Correctional Industries said in its 2014 annual report that 80 percent of inmates who work at least six months stay out of jail a year after release, compared with the national average of 62 percent.
John Scaggs Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy's director of sales and marketing, said that company partner CCI is a "model program" among prison work systems
"If an inmate is serving a sentence for a few years, they can come out with a few thousand bucks [in savings] and a whole new skill set," he said.
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