Students, faculty and staff groups at CU, led by CU Boulder’s Black Student Alliance, called on the University of Colorado to sever ties with the Colorado Correctional industries (CCi) on the grounds that the use of inmate labor was morally and ethically wrong, against the principles a university should stand for. CU President Mark Kennedy convened a working group to study the issue and recommend a way forward. It comprised students, faculty, staff and procurement specialists. CU on the Air host Ken McConnellogue, who was part of that working group, talks with Isaiah Chavous, a CU Boulder senior who is president of the university’s four-campus student government, Dawn Bulbula, chief of staff for CU student government and co-president of the Black Student Alliance, and CU Denver Communications Professor Stephen Hartnett, who has taught in the prison system and studied it for some 30 years.
- For a time, legislation required state entities to purchase furniture from CCi, but that changed in 2013, when new legislation gave more purchasing options. However, CU continued to use CCi exclusively.
- The working group’s recommendation: CU continue to buy furniture from CCi, but that it no longer be an exclusive provider.
- Some surprising findings for the working group: The inmates value the work.
- How the CCi and CU connection can open the doors to better educating inmates.
- Is the agreement ideal? No, but it is a step to social justice and the group is dedicated to continue the momentum.