Following a protest at a location in Houston last weekend, Whole Foods has announced that it will stop selling food produced by prison labor. Since at least 2011, the upscale grocery chain has reportedly sold tilapia and goat cheese raised by offenders in Colorado prisons.
Company spokesperson Michael Silverman told the Associated Press that the program was meant to “help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society.”
But Michael Allen, the prison reform advocate who organized the protest in Houston, takes issue with that stance. “They say they care about the community, but they’re enhancing their profit off of poor people,” he said.
A July Vice story reported that inmates employed via Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI)—the government entity that Whole Foods contracts with—make as little as $0.74 per day. At the time of the report, tilapia was being offered for $11.99 a pound at a New York City Whole Foods location. CCI employs about 2,000 inmates.
The company says the products will be phased out by April 2016.