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Open Forum

Prison labor

inmates are essentially slaves

Last week, the University of Colorado system decided it would continue to use slave labor to fill its lecture halls with furniture. CU announced that it would no longer use Colorado Correctional Industries as its exclusive furniture provider, but would maintain a non-exclusive relationship with the company. We need stronger action from CU leadership on the issue of prison slave labor. CCI pays inmates an average of $4.50 per day to build furniture for a school that charges students roughly five to 20 times that for each hour of class. This is unacceptable.

In its announcement, CU lamented issues that were beyond its “scope to change,” such as “extremely low inmate wages, a small number of opportunities for released inmates to gain furniture industry employment, and a lack of educational opportunities for inmates.” How are these beyond their scope? CU pays CCI $7 million to $10 million per year and has the power to pressure CCI to change its atrocious practices. CU is also one of the largest educators in our state, with more than 60,000 students spread across four campuses. Surely it could do more about the “lack of education opportunities.”

CU’s claim that it can influence change within CCI by maintaining a relationship is confusing and vague. What exactly is CU asking CCI to change? Right now, inmates are suing the state of Colorado for minimum wage and basic protections, saying they were forced to either work for nickels or lose basic needs like commissary access and visitations. In 2018, Colorado voters made slavery illegal in the state, including as punishment for crimes and yet we have not seen any real change. CU could take the lead by adopting a strong stance against prison slave labor, but so far it stands on the wrong side of history.

kyLen sOLVik


Health care

sham bill, sham senator

Dear Sen. Cory Gardner, I get it. It is less than 70 days until the election.

You are frantic.

But you hold your electorate in such contempt as to believe we would fall for the 170-word bill you submitted Aug. 6, purportedly protecting rights already enshrined in law: The Affordable Care Act. The law you have proudly, consistently, and repeatedly voted against at least 13 times since your entry to Congress.

Your constituents have told you for years that we want the ACA improved, not repealed. Eschewing live town halls for orchestrated telephone town halls has caused you to be completely disconnected from and apathetic to your constituents who want our health care, through the ACA and otherwise, protected, improved, and affordable.

Intriguingly, “your” bill is eerily akin to a bill submitted by another GOP senator running for his political life in North Carolina.

You have faced repeated criticism for talking out of both sides of your mouth, saying you want to protect people with preexisting conditions but voting against those interests every single time without a replacement plan beyond this recent action. Nor can you hide from supporting the GOP lawsuit against the ACA.

You have squandered your chance to show your respect to Colorado voters. In fact, this “bill” demonstrates your utter lack of regard for us. Your bill is nothing but a charade to hoodwink voters, especially since federal and Colorado law already require insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions.

Maybe those live, authentic town halls should have been held.

LisA LesniAk


John Eastman

Odd timing on his academic pursuit

Regarding the “wholly innocent and entirely academic” nature and intentions of the argument Benson Center visiting scholar John Eastman makes about the qualification of U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris to be vice president, I call BS. How fortuitous that Professor Eastman simply happened to be “intellectually curious” about this matter now, and decided to engage in this “unexceptionally academic exercise” of a guest column aimed squarely at the first woman of color to be named as the vice presidential candidate of any major political party in the history of this country.

What Professor Eastman is doing and has done with his “wholly academic” exploration of whether Sen. Harris qualifies as a U.S. citizen is express a racist idea — which, according to Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, makes him a racist in this instance. Whether “wholly innocent and unintentional” or not, Professor Eastman’s guest column has fed fuel to the repugnant birther-ism movement and given cover to racists who can’t seem to come up with any legitimate, sensible, or convincing arguments against electing Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Harris as the next president and vice president of the United States.

If Professor Eastman truly was merely engaging in the academic pursuit of what seemed to be an intriguing idea without realizing the effects it would have in the real world, and if he is intellectually honest, he should now acknowledge how his guest column can cause and has caused true harm — not only to Sen. Harris, but to the social fabric of our community. If he does not do so, then I repeat what I said at the beginning: A “wholly innocent and entirely academic” exploration of a mere theory? I call BS.



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