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Walmart to continue to review policy on prison labor

ANNE D'INNOCENZIO

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart Inc. says it will continue to review its policy on working with suppliers that deploy prison labor, as part of its review of overall practices in the wake of civil unrest over racial inequality.

The nation's largest retailer said a “small number" of its U.S. suppliers use voluntary labor as part of prison rehabilitation programs as permitted by law, according to an emailed statement from spokesperson Tricia Moriarty. The company’s policies “strictly prohibit involuntary prison labor” and these programs pay inmates “prevailing wages," company said. It said that voluntary programs provide “positive, private sector job training and marketable skills" to help them get back into society.

“As part of our racial equity initiatives announced earlier this month, we will continue to review our policies on these programs to understand what, if any, role they should play going forward,” Walmart said.

Despite making up close to 5% of the global population, the U.S. has nearly 25% of the world’s prison population, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Since 1970, the nation’s incarcerated population has increased by sevenfold — 2.3 million people in jail and prison currently far outpacing population growth and crime. It says that one out of every three Black boys born now can expect to go to prison in his lifetime as can one out of every six Latino boys, compared to one of every 17 white boys.

Bloomberg first reported the news.

Earlier this month, Walmart and its charitable arm Walmart Foundation said they will donate $100 million over five years to a new center devoted to addressing systemic racism. The move came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, which sparked protests around the country over police brutality and racial inequality.