Whole Foods to Stop Investing in Prison Labored Goods
Love it for all of its artisanal selections and colorfully stacked and consumer inducing displays or loathe it for its often unreasonably high prices, grocery chain Whole Foods is announcing a big change to its products…
And some people, both consumers and producers are not happy with it while others are rejoicing in victory.
Last week Whole Foods announced this week that they would stop selling items provided by vendors who use prison labor.
ABC News reports (and Good Magazine) that by April, 2016, “products provided by prisoners participating in an incarceration-to-work program, will no longer be sold by the company.”
Why the sudden move? The decision came in response to a proposed protest at one of the Whole Foods’ Texas stores, organized by prison reform activists angry over the chain’s partnership with several vendors who use workers from Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of that state’s department of corrections…
Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston, and organizer of the Texas protest, pointed to the policy of “using low-cost prison labor as being seemingly at odds with Whole Food’s carefully crafted socially conscious image.”
Allen spoke with BBC about the “hypocrisy” of Whole Foods as the company touts its focus on the concept of community, “but what it really cares about is profits.” Allen stated.
Allen and End Mass Incarceration notified the company in August of their plans to protest their Houston store over their carrying of certain brands of goat cheese and Tilapia, both of which are cultivated by inmates.
It was shortly before Allen’s protest was scheduled to begin, however, that the company reportedly made the decision to stop stocking those products…
Whether those products will be stopped in Houston only is not clear.
Whole Foods was initially drawn to prison labor programs as a way to “help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society,” the company chose to stop stocking the products after customers voiced their concerns over the practice…
However, not everyone is quite so enthusiastic as about Whole Food’s decision…
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Speaking with NPR, John Scaggs, whose Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy worked with CCI prisoners to produce the goat cheese that’s been slated for removal from the grocery chain’s shelves, explained:
“This is a model example of a prison-work program. By purchasing goat’s milk from the facility [that uses prison labor], we’re supporting … rehabilitative incarceration.”
He later elaborated, saying:
“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.”
Both sides of the story seem plausible and just in their causes…
What do you think? What are your thoughts on Prison Based Programs tied to labor but also tied to helping rehabilitate inmates?