The Afrikan Black Coalition has confirmed with the University of California’s Chief Investment Officer that the University of California (“UC”) has investments in private prison corporations of $25 million. This $25 million is split between both Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”), “America’s Leader in Partnership Corrections” and The Geo Group, “the world’s leading provider of correctional and detention management,” according to their websites. The Afrikan Black Coalition has also confirmed that the UC system has a startling $425 million invested in Wells Fargo, one of the largest financiers of private prisons.
So what does this mean, exactly? Well on a purely technical level, the UC system is an indirect investor in private prisons through mutual funds–managed by outside investment bankers–to the tune of $25,000,000. In plain English, this means that the UC System is helping to fund the prison industrial complex’s mission of prioritizing profit over people; the UC has blood on their hands. Private prison corporations exist to build centers of white supremacist dehumanization, turning Black, brown, and immigrant bodies into a profit under the guise of rehabilitation. This profit is the result of anti-Black overcriminalization in the streets, inhumane conditions within the private prison themselves, and a legacy of legal and political disenfranchisement after release. In 2010 there were 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. and we must ask: why is the state’s leading system of higher education funding such an immoral system? Why is the UC actively fueling the racist criminal justice system while publicly aiming for more “diversity” within their own campuses? Any contribution to the for-profit private prison industry is a direct and unethical approval in further dehumanizing Black, brown, and immigrant people for capitalistic gains. Afrikan Black Coalition Political Director Yoel Haile writes:
“It is an ethical embarrassment and a clear disregard for Black and immigrant lives for the UC to be investing tens and hundreds millions of dollars in private prisons and their financiers. In the age of mass incarceration and Black Lives Matter, the UC should be leading the fight for social justice and ethical investing as opposed to bankrolling the inhuman mass incarceration regime that has gripped America.”
Not only is it ethically embarrassing for a publicly funded and world renowned university system to contribute to such a system, it is downright disgusting. For comparison, let us look at Columbia University’s recent divestment decision. According to MotherJones.com, Columbia University owned roughly $10,000,000 in shares of G4S and CCA in 2013. Between student activism and public pressure, Columbia University has since committed to divesting that $10 million sum from the private prison industry. The private prison industry has not lost the support of the UC system, however, and this is not something that can be ignored any longer. The University of California holds 2.5 times the amount of shares that Columbia once held. While Columbia can boast of their divestment, the UC System has hidden their very troubling investments in private for-profit prisons. This $25 million investment is not a passive agreement, but an actively shameful agreement that incarcerated Black lives do not indeed matter.
Even more atrocious is the UC system’s complicitly in the capitalistic prison industrial complex through their $425 million investment in Wells Fargo. With ten campuses all over the state of California, the UC system is responsible for the education of hundreds of thousands of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. ABC Field Organizer Kamilah Moore writes, “the goals of the private prison industry, which are to profit from the incarceration, labor, and rehabilitative treatment of black and immigrant lives, and the UC’s mission, which is to teaching, research, and public service, are fundamentally incompatible.” What does it mean for UC System to so generously invest in the leading financier of private prisons while publicly touting a commitment to public service? This $425 million spells out hypocrisy at the systemic level of the UC. Add in the very real school-to-prison pipeline that the UC system should work against and hope to break, and the UC’s mission becomes empty rhetoric for public titillation. The message is clear: the bodies of the Black, brown, and immigrant folks who pack these private prisons are disposable tools of labor and the UC underwrites this message with their financial investment in its maintenance. Those who pay a thief to steal something are just as responsible as the thief himself for whatever is stolen by the thief, and should be dealt with as such.
We must demand more, even from the seemingly faceless UC System. It is true that a soulless institution cannot be moved by the value of human life, the unjust criminalization of Black, brown, and immigrant bodies, or even large sums of blood money. And whatever rate of return comes from private prison investments is indeed blood money. So we must instead look to the actual human beings who run the UC System and confront these atrocities head on. The UC Regents, President Napolitano, and the Chief Investment Officer must be held accountable for investing our public dollars into a criminal system that has ruthlessly targeted Black and immigrant people for the sole purpose of making profit. Racism is not just individual acts of discrimination or the 250+ lives stolen by the police in 2015, but systemic and structural economic slavery that is being carried out through mass incarceration. By investing in CCA, The Geo Group, and Wells Fargo Bank, the University of California is actively supporting a legacy of slave patrols turned police officers, a historical emphasis on profit margins at the expense of human beings, and the continued mass criminalization of Black existence.
For more information, contact the Afrikan Black Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org