Princeton Private Prison Divest has urged members of the University community to sign a petition in support of an open letter to the Board of Trustees, encouraging the Board to state that they will not invest in private prisons in the future.
In an open letter posted online, PPPD claims that “the consultative and governance processes for recommending divestment have broken down.”
“Although we have met all three of the necessary bars for placing the matter of prison divestment before the board — sustained engagement, demonstrated campus consensus, and a conflict with core university values — Princeton University’s Resources Committee has publicly announced that they will not bring this matter to the board,” the letter states.
PPPD member Eliot Callon ’20 said that the group is asking the Board of Trustees to look at the proposal regardless of whether the CPUC Resources Committee recommends divestment to the Board.
She noted that normally, a proposal regarding divestment is sent to the Resources Committee for consideration before recommendation to the Board of Trustees. However, according to Callon, the Resources Committee is not adequately addressing the issue, necessitating alternative action.
“The Resources Committee has not taken us seriously. They have not shown any evidence that they have engaged seriously with our proposal,” said Callon. “[Resources Committee Chair Michael Littman] really displayed a shocking lack of knowledge about the issue … and after meeting with [the committee] for over a year and explaining these things to them both on paper and in person, the lack of knowledge that they exhibit on the issue shows that they are not qualified to be assessing this.”
“We’ve had several referenda [that demonstrated] overwhelming support from undergraduates, from graduate students. We’ve had, I think, over 180 faculty sign a petition calling for divestment,” noted Callon.
Callon also described supporting private prisons as incredibly hypocritical and “against University values.”
“The biggest argument against private prisons … is that they incentivize incarceration and they make people into merchandise,” said Callon. “If you look at contracts of private prison companies, whether it’s private prisons or it’s private immigration detention centers, they refer to people as units, and a lot of the states have quotas that have to be met in order to fulfill the contracts which means that they’re working hard to keep their prisons full.”
Callon also noted that something many people don’t think about often is private immigration detention centers, which she claimed can be as harmful as private prisons. She noted that even if private prisons are reduced or eliminated, corporations “are immediately going to pivot and find another place to make money.”
Under Trump,” Callon noted, “I personally am very worried of [private immigration detention centers] becoming a booming industry.”
“We have this huge problem with prisons right now. It’s a prison crisis, and I don’t want to see this country headed in a similar direction with immigration detention,” Callon continued, “and I think that’s something that we have the moral duty to step in the way of, to solve.”
Members of PPPD did not specify when they plan to turn in the petition to the University.