Whole Foods says it will stop selling products made by a Colorado prison labor program after a protest against the practice at one of its stores in Texas. The company says the products should be out of its stores by April 2016, if not sooner. Whole Foods says it has sold tilapia and goat cheese produced through the Colorado Correctional Industries program in Canon City since at least 2011.
Prison reform advocates have likened the program to indentured servitude, citing low wages.
A statement from the Colorado Department of Corrections says the department is "disappointed" in the decision, and that the program helps inmates readjust to life outside the prison by teaching them marketable skills such as team-building, customer service, and good work habits. The department also says 80% of inmates who spent at least six months in a CCI program remain out of prison after release.
Whole Foods spokesman Michael Silverman says the company initially sourced the products because it was a way to help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society.
The prison also houses a water buffalo dairy for Colorado-based company Leprino Foods and has programs for antique tractor restoration and wild horse training.