UC sells shares in private prison companies after Black Student Unions release resolution

Afrikan Black Coalition/Jeremy Michael Vasquez/Courtesy

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The University of California has sold approximately $25 million worth of investments in private prison corporations, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein, after Black Student Unions of all nine UC campuses voted on a resolution calling for immediate divestment.

Klein said UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher decided to sell the university’s shares in private prisons after several meetings with a group of concerned students from the Afrikan Black Coalition, or ABC, a universitywide group for black student organizations. At the most recent meeting Friday, Bachher informed the ABC that the university had sold its assets, according to an ABC press release.

“This victory is historic and momentous. Divesting $25 million is a good step towards shutting down private prisons by starving them of capital,” said Yoel Haile, ABC political director, in the press release. “This is a clear example of Black Power and what we can achieve when we work in unity.”

According to Klein, the university makes investment decisions after evaluating the risks of an asset in terms of social, governmental or environmental issues. The university eventually concluded that “based on risk over the next several years, these holdings were not a good investment for a long-term investor such as UC,” Klein said in an email.

On Nov. 30, the ABC reported in a press release that the UC Board of Regents had invested $25 million split among three private prison corporations  — the GEO Group Inc., the Corrections Corporation of America and G4S  — as well as $425 million in Wells Fargo, which ABC alleged also finances private prison companies.

The university’s Black Student Unions voted on a resolution in early November demanding that the regents institute a permanent policy against investments in private prison companies in addition to withdrawing current investments, according to Anthony Williams, ABC prison divestment communications director. The resolution cited a disproportionate number of national black prison inmates and the profitability of the prison industrial complex as reasons for divestment, among others.

“We thought that the resolution was necessary once we found out they were invested but also the amount to which they were invested,” Williams said.

Although the university has sold its shares in the private prison companies, it remains invested in Wells Fargo, according to the ABC press release.

Wells Fargo spokesperson Mariana Phipps said Wells Fargo Funds currently holds a “very small” position with two private prison companies — the GEO Group and CCA. She added that Wells Fargo Funds is owned by the funds’ investors rather than Wells Fargo & Company, which does not have corporate ownership of the GEO Group or CCA.

While Williams believes that the university can still make progress in its relationship with other organizations associated with private prison companies, he said he approves of the university’s decision to cut its financial ties with private prison companies by selling its shares.

“I’m absolutely pleased that the University of California is making this step and working towards, on their end, more financially smart decisions and, on our end, more ethically sound decisions that actually represent the morals that the University of California puts forward,” Williams said.

Contact Kimberly Nielsen at [email protected].