If you know anything about prisons, you know how awful our private prisons really are. Here is an interesting piece by some college students, which inspired me to write the Letter to the Editor which you see below.
Go, Lily Canfield, Moses Goren, and Tom Murray! GO GO GO!
Excerpts from the Article:
On August 21st, the same day Yale announced its divestment from assault weapons retailers, prisoners across the country went on strike. They were protesting inhumane conditions, the inability to address their grievances, racial discrimination and prison slavery. The strike was announced following the preventable deaths of seven inmates at the Robert E. Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security public prison in South Carolina. Inmates in private prisons, public prisons and immigrant detention centers withheld their labor, organized peaceful sit-ins, went on hunger strike and boycotted prison commissaries. Yes, prisoners making twenty cents an hour decided to withhold what little they had from the commissaries in order to impact their exploiters’ bottom lines.
For three years, we have petitioned Yale to show even a fraction of that moral courage. The Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility has said they would engage in a dialogue with Yale Students for Prison Divestment about the role of private prisons and other prison-related industries in Yale’s investment portfolio. They have not listened. The divestment group has been calling on the Yale Corporation to divest from private prisons and prison related industries. We want Yale to not only divest from certain companies with known human rights violations, but to take the positive step of publicly refusing to reap the profits of mass incarceration. Instead, the Yale Corporation decided to invest even more in private prisons and related industries, adding investments totaling $72.1 million in iShares Core and iShares MSCI, mutual funds containing CoreCivic, Geo Group, G4s and Sodexo, according to the Yale Corporation’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
In response to our meetings in March and April, the investor responsibility advisory committee has released proxy voting guidelines, in which they agree to vote for proposed changes in company policies that purport to improve conditions for prisoners or increase corporate transparency. If they think these guidelines will satisfy us, they’ve fundamentally misunderstood the message we’ve tried to convey. No company that profits from increases in incarceration can be anything other than an obstacle in the fight against mass incarceration. No change in company policy can make incarceration both profitable and humane. The fact that these guidelines call for a particularly passive means of engagement is just icing on the cake.
Private prisons optimize profits by filling every bed and cutting costs in areas that impact prisoners’ health, nutrition, and safety. They have been consistently shown to have even lower safety standards and higher rates of violence than their public counterparts. They have been shown to house Black and Hispanic inmates at even higher rates than their public counterparts, according to a study by Christopher Petrella, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. They rely on the labor of inmates, who perform tasks necessary to the upkeep of the prison for less than a dollar an hour, if they are compensated at all. This is not an accident. This is their business model. This is slavery, legalized under the caveat in the 13th amendment that allows for slavery as punishment for a crime. And Yale is profiting from it.
The fundamental inhumanity of private prisons is what has motivated many other institutions to divest, including Columbia University and New York City’s pension fund. We agree that it’s wrong to reap the benefits of societal harm. Mass incarceration is undeniably a grave social injury — this is accepted across the political spectrum, and it’s inconceivable that our University doesn’t accept it too. The privatization of mass incarceration, with its perverse incentives to incarcerate more people, to spend less money on their health and safety, and to coerce their labor for profit, is a particularly odious example of that societal harm.
Now is the time for moral courage. Let us follow the example of the participants in the national prison strike. With even a fraction of our $28,500,000,000 endowment, we have the power to make a big difference. And with the Yale name, we have the power to delegitimize prison profiteering by divesting from it.
Let’s do the right thing. Let’s take the same step we took with assault weapons retailers on August 21st and say that just because something can be profited from does not mean it should be. Let’s refuse to invest in incarceration, exploitation and human rights violations. Instead of promising to vote “yes” on positive tweaks to a system that profits from brutalization, let’s refuse to lend our social and economic power to that system in the first place.
Lily Canfield is a first-year in Pierson College, Moses Goren is a first-year in Branford College and Tom Murray is a first-year in Morse College. They are members of Yale Students for Prison Divestment. Contact them at email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com , respectively.
Letter to the Editor or Op Ed Submission – Who Are These People? 10/14/18
Who are these people on The Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility for Yale University, and who are the individuals serving on the Yale Corporation? Did they go to Yale? If so, how can they be so stupid? Do they not understand that as one of our most revered and acclaimed Universities, all eyes are on Yale? Have they no moral compass? Surely such a fine institution should be setting a much better example, for its students and for others, than is Yale!
Although a group called Yale Students for Prison Divestment has called upon them to divest themselves of private prison investments and investments in other companies which profit from mass incarceration, and has explained the problems, the cruelty and injustice caused by such corporations, they have not listened. Instead, the Yale Corporation decided to invest even more in private prisons and related industries, adding investments totaling $72.1 million in iShares Core and iShares MSCI, mutual funds containing CoreCivic, Geo Group, G4s and Sodexo, according to the Yale Corporation’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
That $72.1 million is a tiny fraction of Yale’s $28,500,000,000 endowment. Yet the pain, anguish, and suffering caused by the companies involved is incalculable. To learn more about the horrors caused by these companies, see articles at www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net or google the issue yourself.
So I say: “Shame them in the press!”. Dear readers, and Yale alumni everywhere, write a letter to the editor or an Op Ed piece criticising the investment practices of Yale Corporation! Send that out to the top ten newspapers in your state. Say that you want Yale to not only divest from certain companies with known human rights violations, but to take the positive step of publicly refusing to reap the profits of mass incarceration.
You can make a difference! Many of you “Yalies” already have.
Ken Abraham, Deputy Attorney General of Delaware 1974-1979, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067.
I get lots of letters published, and ghost write for others. THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO REACH THOUSANDS OF READERS! The keys to getting your Letter published are:
1. Keep it to 250 words or fewer.
2. Do not make it about “poor little old me”. Describe the problem as one which not only affects the individual, but is a senseless or ineffective measure, policy, or law which also harms communities and society. For example, with reentry, the obstacles make it unnecessarily difficult for the individual, but also harm society by making it hard to become productive, spending money and paying taxes in the community, and they cause increased recidivism = increased crime.
3. Speak from your heart.
4. Google any facts you are not sure about.
5. Do not name-call.
Do what works: Write that Letter!
Letter to Editor – sign name, town, state, and your phone number (they often call to verify that you sent it), and “Member of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE” if you like – shows you are part of a large group.
Send the email to yourself, and put on the “bcc” bar the email addresses for Letters to the Editor for the top ten newspapers in your state and several national ones – The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, U S A Today (google the Letter to Editor email addresses). Any questions, CALL me at 302-423-4067!
GOOGLE THE EMAIL ADDRESSES FOR “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR” FOR THE TOP TEN NEWSPAPERS IN YOUR STATE AND SAVE THAT INFORMATION FOR REPEATED USE – Some papers will print a letter from you every 2 weeks, some every 30 days, some every 90 days. They have varying policies. But if you really want to make a difference shoot them a new letter once a month! I send one out every 2 weeks.
Need a Letter on some criminal justice issue and not a great letter writer? NO EXCUSE! Email me a rough draft and call me and I’ll polish it up! firstname.lastname@example.org .
ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME AT 302-423-4067.