For many shoppers, the fancy cheese section at Whole Foods evokes images of sweet little farms on hillsides, perhaps run by a family who has been in the same spot for generations. It does not, in all likelihood, make shoppers think about prison.
But a new piece in Fortune reports that Colorado Correctional Industries (CCi) is providing the labor for a host of products that goes beyond stereotypical prisoner products (license plates and office furniture) and includes the goat milk used by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, carried by Whole Foods. According to Jennifer Alsever, six inmates at the Skyline Correctional Center in Canon City milk 1,000 goats twice a day. They are paid a base rate of 60 cents per day but "most prisoners earn $300 to $400 a month with incentives." The dairy is then transported to another facility, where non-inmate employees turn it into cheese.
Colorado Correctional Industries is a division of the state's Department of Corrections that provides inmate labor for manufacturing, agriculture, and a variety of services. According to Alsever, CCi employs 2,000 inmates at 17 different facilities across the state. "Nationwide, she writes, "63,032 inmates produce more than $2 billion worth of products a year, most of them sold to government entities."