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Whole Foods ends prison labor food production, raises questions about line between exploiting and preparing inmates

by AirTalk®

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This photo shows Robert Mitchum who was sentenced to 60 days for violation of narcotic law, at the Los Angeles County Honor Farm where he was transferred from the County Jail. © Bettmann/CORBIS

By April of 2016, Whole Foods will stop selling food products prepared by inmates at Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

While customers have expressed their concerns over prison inmates handling goat cheese produced by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy and tilapia from Quixotic Farming, there have been other disputes questioning the exploitation of the workers at C.C.I.

Activists in Houston have protested the sales, accusing Whole Foods of taking advantage of the low pay prison workers receive.

But some argue that training the inmates in food-industry related positions will help them get jobs once their sentences are over.

Do you think Whole Foods is exploiting inmates or empowering them with skills to enter the workforce?


Graeme Wood, books editor for Pacific Standard. He wrote a piece for the magazine in March called “From Our Prison to Your Dinner Table” about the prison labor program at the Cañon City Correctional Complex in Cañon City, Colorado

Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, a criminal justice research and advocacy group

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