The University of California Invests in Prisons

By Allison Kielhold, Enlace Intern


The University of California manages an impressive financial portfolio of over $78 billion in endowments, retirement, and cash assets, making it one of the largest endowment and retirement funds in the country.[i]   Regrettably, savings in the UC endowment and retirement funds are invested in corporations that invest in for-profit prisons.  As part of Enlace’s Private Prison Divestment Campaign we are calling on all of the UC campuses to get their money out of private prisons.

GEO Group (GEO) and Corrections Corporation America (CCA) are the largest for-profit prisons that are driving the mass incarceration of people of color in America. These two companies have successfully lobbied for policies that leave black and brown bodies behind bars, with our tax dollars paying private companies to keep them there.  The UC system is financially supporting these corporations since the UC Regents are invested in Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Lazard, Blackrock Inc., and Morgan Stanley, all of which own over two-thirds of CCA and GEO.[ii]  Effectively, when CCA and GEO increase earnings from incarcerating and deporting migrants, the UC takes a share of the profit.

We are rallying for divestment because when investors pull their funds out of a company it makes a statement and demands that the company change its investment practices if it wants to continue making a profit.  Therefore, divesting from these companies because they support CCA and GEO will cause a chain reaction ending in these companies pulling their finances from the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Without the financial support of these companies, CCA and GEO will lose capital and with it, their ability to lobby for stricter punishments, anti-immigration laws, and more contracts.

Two UC student governments, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara, have already passed resolutions to divest their student government funds from corporations that support for-profit prisons.  They have also called on their individual campuses, as well as the UC Regents and the UC President, to divest all UC finances from the PIC.  They have continued the UC tradition of fighting injustice and perusing socially responsible investments. It is time for the University of California to stop investing in incarceration and use its funds to empower communities through socially responsible investments. Higher education should not be supporting criminalization and incarceration and it is time for students to take a stand against these dirty dealings.

Enlace is coordinating the National Prison Divestment Campaign. Currently, we are collaborating in an effort to get the City of Portland to divest and we are also supporting students at UC campuses in their divestment campaigns. If you would like to get involved please contact Jamie Trinkle at for more information.

[i] “Chief Investment Officer of the Regents” University of California Office of the President. 2012. Web. Accessed Oct. 2013.

[ii] “Twenty-Seven Major Private Prison Investors.” Private Prison Divestment Campaign. Aug. 2013. Web. Accessed Sep. 2013.

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