CU President Mark Kennedy has appointed a working group to examine the university’s relationship with Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI) after students and faculty raised concerns about the state entity that provides furniture and other manufactured goods to state agencies across Colorado.
Kennedy asked that the working group engage with campus chief financial officers, chief diversity officers and representatives of shared governance groups in the effort. It will eventually present findings and recommendations to Kennedy and campus chancellors.
Colorado Correctional Industries is a division of the Colorado Department of Corrections. While serving time in Colorado Correctional Facilities, some inmates are given the opportunity to learn occupational skills that can help them as they re-enter society. The organization makes and installs furniture (its primary relationship with CU), trains dogs and farms fish, among others.
CU’s primary relationship with CCI involves furniture purchases. State statute previously required the university and other state agencies to use CCI as an exclusive supplier. The statute was revised to make CCI a required bidder, but not exclusive provider. However, CU continued with CCI as an exclusive supplier, even after the statute revision. Late last year, the university determined to proceed with a competitive RFP for furniture, potentially expanding the supplier base and providing competition for furniture contracts.
Some faculty and students have expressed concerns about inmates’ wages, working conditions and opportunities for rehabilitation.
The working group, which had its initial meeting this week, includes Vice President for Budget and Finance and Chief Financial Officer Todd Saliman, Vice President for Administration Kathy Nesbitt (who served on the CCI board previously when she was the state’s human resources lead in former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s cabinet), system Chief Diversity Officer Theodosia Cook, Chief Procurement Officer Ed Mills, Vice President for Communication Ken McConnellogue, Associate Vice President for Business Operations Geoff Barsch and Assistant Vice President of State Relations Heather Retzko.