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UC Divests $25 Million from Private Prisons After Afrikan Black Coalition Pressure

The University of California announced their sale of $25 million in holdings with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The Geo Group on Dec. 18, making UC the first public education institution to openly retract support for the private prison industry. UC’s remaining $2 million holdings in the private prison industry are expected to be sold by Dec. 31.

The divestment was prompted by the Afrikan Black Coalition (UC-ABC), an organization of UC students promoting the welfare of Black members of the UC community. In November, the UC-ABC released a statement denouncing UC’s investments in the for-profit prison industry, arguing that their commitment to the welfare of students of color is hypocritical when coupled with their tacit financial support of private prisons.

“This [investment] spells out hypocrisy at the systemic level of the UC,” according to the UC-ABC’s Nov. 30 statement. “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.”

UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher responded to the UC-ABC’s statement on Dec. 18, announcing that the University of California has begun selling all shares in private prisons.

According to a UC-ABC press release, Bachher also “stated that he would partner with the Afrikan Black Coalition and has pledged to inform each UC Chancellor and financial institutions–with whom the UC maintains a relationship–about the UC’s decision to sell all holdings in private prisons.”

In the wake of the decision, UC-ABC notes that the UC system has maintained $425 million in holdings in Wells Fargo, which owns over one million shares in CCA and Geo Group, “the world’s leading provider of correctional and detention management.” UC-ABC argues that UC’s holdings in Wells Fargo contradicts their commitment to the $25 million divestment from the for-profit prison industry.

As of 2012, Wells Fargo was the lender of CCA’s $785 million line of credit, and had $95.5 million invested in Geo Group through its mutual funds.

In a September 2012 report, the UC-ABC insisted that the UC’s tacit support of the for-profit prison industry was contradictory to their support of minority students, as CCA and Geo “[are] premised on profiting from the exploitation of vulnerable communities.”

The UC-ABC then states, “The Detention Watch Network found that, between 2005 and 2010, the number of immigrants detained doubled to approximately 392,000 at a cost of $1.77 billion.”

UC-ABC maintains that CCA and Geo Group’s involvement in the imprisonment of minority communities and immigrants contradicts the intentions of UC’s Task Force on Sustainable Investment, which urged UC’s CIO in Sep. 2014 to consider “human rights, and/or discrimination” as a deciding factor in future investment and divestment decisions.

The UC-ABC remains committed to urging UC’s $425 divestment from Wells Fargo in an effort to remove all UC support for the for-profit prison industry.

“If the UC does not sell their $425 million of holdings in Wells Fargo Bank, they will have a statewide coalition of relentless, strategic, and fearless Black students who are intent on contributing their part to the Black Freedom Struggle,” reads the Dec. 18 statement on UC-ABC’s website. “Our patience is quickly reaching its limit and we intend to wage this struggle by any means necessary.”

As yet, the University of California CIO has stated no official plans to divest from Wells Fargo.