We, the undersigned, call upon you and the Harvard Management Company to immediately divest Harvard’s holdings from the prison-industrial complex and take specific steps to repair the grievous harms these investments have inflicted and continue to perpetuate.
Beginning in early 2016, Harvard’s leadership took steps to publicly acknowledge and express remorse for the university’s direct complicity in the institution of slavery. Nevertheless, Harvard continues to profit from the caging and forced labor of Black people through its investments in the prison-industrial complex, through which the legacies of slavery persist. After the Civil War, the 13th amendment’s abolition of slavery “except as punishment for a crime” facilitated efforts by Southern elites to preserve slavery—through the passage of the Black Codes, convict leasing programs, and Jim Crow-era laws—that would eventually evolve into the modern prison system.
Today, the prison-industrial complex—defined as “the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to what are, in actuality, economic, social, and political problems”—has ensnared close to 2.3 million people in prisons and jails at the local, state, and federal levels, with an additional 4.5 million people under correctional control on probation or parole. These statistics so shock the conscience that over 75% of undergraduates who voted in the most recent Undergraduate Council election support divestment from the prison-industrial complex.
We demand that you and the Harvard Management Company divest Harvard’s holdings from companies that profit from the prison-industrial complex and reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by mass incarceration by doing the following:
Disclose and Divest
a) Publicly disclose and release endowment holdings in all funds with stock in companies whose existence depends on the prison-industrial complex.
b) Provide an authenticated copy of endowment holdings to the Harvard community in the interests of transparency, prior to divestment and regularly thereafter.
Repair and Rebuild
a) Apportion a significant percentage of divested funds towards companies, organizations, and initiatives in Cambridge and Boston that are led by people directly impacted by the prison-industrial complex. Establish an accountability structure for the appropriate redistribution of funds, with timed mandates and oversight accorded to people and communities who have been the central victims of mass incarceration.
b) Launch a cross-school initiative to research and teach creative ways to eliminate structural social harms that do not rely on prisons and police. Develop funded academic projects (e.g. scholarships, centers, institutes, departments, and concentrations) that employ formerly incarcerated people, organizers, and scholars. End discrimination against and create opportunities for current and formerly incarcerated persons.