ASUCD Passes Private Prison Divestment Resolution

Private-Divestmentby Jerika L.H.

A groundbreaking bill which calls for the divestment of private prisons from all UC dealings was passed by the ASUCD on February 25 at the behest of several campus activists.

The measure (SR#14) is described as “a resolution urging both the Board of Regents of the University of California (UC Regents) and the ASUCD to undertake practices of corporate social responsibility by divesting in corporations which are directly and indirectly involved in the private prison industry.”

The UC had previously agreed to divestment in December of 2015 after the Afrikan Black Coalition brought their $25 million investment in private prison corporations to light. The UC agreed to rectify this “ethical embarrassment” and divest all money by January 2016. Yet, January has come and gone and UC money still continues to trickle into private businesses which profit off of human incarceration.

Student Kyla Burke notes “They agreed to divest [from] the CCA and GEO group, but they still have $425 million in Wells Fargo, which is one of the largest funders of these companies. We want them to divest from all businesses that run private prisons, that invest in private prisons, or profit from private prison labor.” This, along with ASUCD’s “Divest from Israel” bill has been regarded by many as a huge accomplishment for human rights advancements, although not without its controversy and debate.

Burke cites the passing of the resolution as one of her proudest moments as an activist.

“When we first started thinking about prison divestment last year, it seemed like such a far off and unattainable goal. But here we are a year later, and tonight our divestment resolution passed ASUCD almost unanimously. There is still a lot of work to be done to make the regents actually divest from private prisons. But tonight was a really important step! If we are going to do this we need every campus to pass similar resolutions.”

Currently, one out of every 100 Americans is in jail, which accounts for six million people. State legislators are able to cut costs by sending inmates to cheap, for-profit prison institutions that have notably bad rehabilitation efforts, substandard facility conditions and are significantly more violent than state institutions. In order for private prisons to make money, it requires a steady flow of individuals coming in. This main detail turns arrests and convictions into a quota, whereby longer sentences and the enlistment of more people off the streets as “criminals” turns the prison system into a capitalistic venture. In other words, when a person’s future is destroyed by a disproportionately long sentence, private prisons make money.

Statistically, most offenders commit non-violent crimes. Research shows that long sentences for minor offenders only serves to exacerbate their crime record and further harden their outlook, as opposed to improve it. The more time a person spends in jail, the more at risk they become for recidivism. Arrests and long prison sentences disproportionately affect African American males and undocumented workers. While African Americans tend to be face longer sentencing for comparable crimes than any other racial group, Latinos are more likely to be jailed in terms of the decision to incarcerate.

The privatization of the prison system exemplifies the grandiose failure of the American legal structure and its prioritization of profit at the expense of greater social consequences. It is a classic case of lucrative corruption, not to mention the many documented instances of the bribery of court officials to ensure harsher punishments. This conflict of human interest means that progressive measures, such as the decriminalization of drug use as an illness, are frowned upon by the state because they disrupt the profit flow for private prisons. While the ethical violations at play are numerous, they are profitable for a select few who have made a business on the foundation of lost human potential.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will


    Thanks for the update on this important issue.

    You have covered most of the reasons for divesting from support of the private prison industry. I would like to emphasize one additional point. When we think about the victims of crimes, we rarely think about the innocent parents, spouses and children of the convicted. Utilization of private prisons frequently means moving the prisoner out of state, thus separating them from their families. At a time when there is much talk about the need to strengthen families, we should be adopting measures that support, not undermine, this goal.

    1. zaqzaq

      This is a trivial issue.  The UC system should be maximizing the return on all investments and not playing politics with the money.  Hopefully the better the return the less tuition will be raised for students.  Get over it.

      1. Tia Will


        This is a trivial issue”

        This issue is anything but trivial to those whose lives are destroyed by lengthy terms in prison for non violent crimes and for the families that are torn apart by the imprisonment of one of their members. It is not trivial to the children of low level, non violent drug offenders who are deprived of their parent nor to the elderly parent dependent on the care of such an individual.

        We have institutionalized prison for a large portion of our population and then complain about the lack of integrity of these same families.

        1. Frankly

          You are all twisted up putting your cart in front of your horse and you will get nowhere.

          Prison does not cause the “lack of integrity”, it was because the families and the parents of these families lacked integrity that they ended up in prison.

          Just like Steven Hendrix… too bad we did not get him to prison earlier or else Cynthia Jonasen would still be alive today.

          Or if we don’t like sending guys like Steven Hendrix to prison, we should be doing things to help improve his family integrity before he starts making all those bad decisions.

  2. Frankly

    The Myth of Mass Incarceration
    Violent crime, not drugs, has driven imprisonment. And drug offenses usually are for dealing, not using.

    Less than one-half of 1% of the U.S. population is incarcerated, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), so “mass” is a bit of hyperbole. The proportion of African-Americans in prison, 1.2%, is high compared with whites (0.25%), but not in absolute terms.

    There’s a lot of historical amnesia about the cause of prison expansion, a mistaken sense that it was all about drugs or race and had very little to do with serious crime. This ignores the facts. Between 1960 and 1990, the rate of violent crime in the U.S. surged by over 350%, according to FBI data, the biggest sustained buildup in the country’s history.

    One major reason was that as crime rose the criminal-justice system caved. Prison commitments fell, as did time served per conviction. For every 1,000 arrests for serious crimes in 1970, 170 defendants went to prison, compared with 261 defendants five years earlier. Murderers released in 1960 had served a median 4.3 years, which wasn’t long to begin with. By 1970 that figure had dropped to 3.5 years.

    Unquestionably, in the last decades of the 20th century more defendants than ever were sentenced to prison. But this was a direct result of changes in policy to cope with the escalation in violent crime. In the 1980s, after well over a decade of soaring crime, state incarceration rates jumped 107%.

    When crime began to drop in the mid-1990s, so did the rise in incarceration rates. From 2000 to 2010, they increased a negligible 0.65%, and since 2005 they have been declining steadily, except for a slight uptick in 2013. The estimated 1.5 million prisoners at year-end 2014 is the smallest total prison population in the U.S. since 2005.

    Those who talk of “mass incarceration” often blame the stiff drug sentences enacted during the crack-cocaine era, the late 1980s and early ’90s. But what pushed up incarceration rates, beginning in the mid-1970s, was primarily violent crime, not drug offenses.

    Too bad the political correctness police will not allow any discussion about the level of violence in the back community and black urban culture… reinforced by black pop culture.  Because controlling for that would destroy the cops-are-racist narrative of the left.

    Instead the social justice liberals, with their fake “mass incarceration” narrative and their wrong-headed “cops are racist” narrative, are turning back the clock where we will have much more violent crime and much more property crime.   We are already seeing it.

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s not a great article. First of all, looking at the number of people currently in prison underestimates mass incarceration by a lot. There is a reason why most of the literature looks at the percentage of people under some control of the legal system. When you look at prison, probation and parole, the percentage triples.

      Second, the article misses a key point – mass incarceration is a relative term. While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

      1. Frankly

        You will keep searching for statistics anywhere you can find them so that you never have to admit to being wrong on this.  The “world’s” anything is not a good comparison to the US.

        Your problem is that you are failing to actually connect the prisoners in this country with the crimes.   Are you really willing to allow crime to increase just so the US has a lower prison population?  How about focusing on the crime?

        I really don’t get this liberal attraction to criminals as some new victim group.

        Read the article again.  The vast majority of criminals in our prisons are in there for violent crime.  It is a lie that we have many prisoners that have been convicted of crimes that did not harm others.

        1. David Greenwald

          Search for stats? Those are the most commonly cited statistics on the issue. The stats I cited are the ones used in the literature that defines mass incarceration. If anything, your article searches for stats, and it does it by dissecting prison from local custody, probation and parole.

          “I really don’t get this liberal attraction to criminals as some new victim group.”

          Your words, not mine. As I have showed you previously, it’s not an exclusively liberal issue. I don’t see us incarcerating ourselves to a solution here.

          “Read the article again. The vast majority of criminals in our prisons are in there for violent crime.”

          If accurate (the last I checked a majority of prisoners in federal prison are there on drug charges), it’s a definitional statistic. Drug offenders in California for example are in local custody, rather than prison.

        2. Tia Will


          I really don’t get this liberal attraction to criminals as some new victim group.”

          Let me see if I can help you understand this. When the state imprisons an individual, we physically take away their ability to choose and  provide for themselves. They become our ward. We become completely responsible for their food, housing, clothing, medical care and mental health. We now are in complete control of the entirety of their lives. And we have options. We could help the non violent and perhaps even some of the violent amongst them to turn their lies around, or we could literally victimize them.

          We could provide education, job training, a civil atmosphere in which to learn from one’s mistakes and to learn how to construct a positive and contributory attitude towards life and a model for how to reintegrate into society. Instead, what we chose to provide is a setting similar to what is provided for caged animals ( take a prison tour if you don’t believe me). Our in prison educational systems, provision of medical care both physical and mental has been and is abysmal despite years of legal wrangling and the receivership brought about by the physical overcrowding and lack of both basic and reintegrative services.

          Your belief in a “victim mentality” does not negate the fact that our society has created a real class of victims.


        3. Frankly

          Tia – have I told you how much I appreciate your posting on the VG?

          our society has created a real class of victims.

          And of course those victims don’t own any responsibility for being in prison.  That is why it is cool being a victim, you can always point to others as being responsible for your crappy life circumstances.  See how that works?

        4. Frankly

          David – did you actually read this document according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics ?

          At year-end 2014, the United States imprisoned 471 persons per 100,000 residents of all ages and 612 persons per 100,000 residents age 18 or older (table 5). Both statistics represent the lowest rate of imprisonment in more than a decade, and continue decreases that began in 2007 and 2008.

          Look at table 11.  Only 3.6% of the total state prison population is incarcerated for drug possession.  So you are not correct.

          Now the federal prisons are a difference animal.  See table 12.  Because federal drug laws and enforcement is much tougher, there is a much higher ratio of prisoners convicted of drug offenses.   However, the percentage is about 50% and that for blacks is 52.5%… not materially different.   And it is 56.9% for Latinos.  Which then begs the question why so much attention to blacks in prison from drug offenses and not Latinos?  Are you being racist on this issue?

          I get the sense that you are desperately trying to stick to this narrative that blacks are over-represented in the prison population because of unfair (racist) law enforcement for drug possession.   The statistics don’t support that narrative.

          However, crime is on the rise.

        5. Frankly

          So now you have moved on to make the case that the number of blacks on probation is indication of racism?

          I have a hypothetical question related to this.  If someone is on probation for selling or using drugs, don’t you think this might contribute to them not selling or not using drugs while they are on probation?  In other words, wouldn’t probation be good for them helping to motivate them to make better life choices?

          I guess the bigger question is what is your problem with probation?

        6. Miwok

          They become our ward. We become completely responsible for their food, housing, clothing, medical care and mental health.

          Boy, the people in there should come out with a new perspective on life, have an education, be off drugs, and… oh, wait.

      2. WesC

        Definitions used by the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

        To have custody of a prisoner, a state or the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must physically hold that person in one of its facilities. A locality, state, or the BOP may hold inmates over whom a different government maintains jurisdiction.

        Imprisoned population
        The population of inmates confined in prison or other facilities under the jurisdiction of the State or Federal Bureau of  Prisons.

        Incarcerated population
        Incarcerated population is the population of inmates confined in a prison or a jail. This may also include halfway-houses, bootcamps, weekend programs, and other facilities in which individuals are locked up overnight.

        Total correctional population
        Total correctional population is the population of persons incarcerated, either in a prison or a jail, and persons supervised in the community, either on probation or parole.

        People on parole or probation are not included in any generally accepted definition of the incarcerated population. Parolees and those on probation are included in the defn of the correctional population.  Parolees and those on probation are with some exceptions free to live wherever they choose, go to school/work, and go wherever they choose within the conditions specified in their parole/probation orders.   You really need to specify if you are referring to the incarcerated population or the correctional population.



    2. Tia Will


      with their fake “mass incarceration” narrative “

      Tell that to the prisoners that were double and triple bunked in facilities in California that were meant for 1/2 of their current populations or less at the time that they were built. The lawsuits that I referenced in my previous post were not trivial and were brought on the behalf of prisoners who could not obtain adequate medical and mental health care because of the over population and lack of adequate health care professionals to care for their needs.  Granted there are two separate but related issues here. One is the population of prisoners and the other is the availability of health care providers. Both were found woefully wanting and that is the reason for the need to ship our California prisoners out to private prisons in other states. Unfortunately, we do not have good oversight of these private prisons, and when rdcanning has done investigations at these facilities, the result have been less than reassuring.

      1. WesC

        The 3 federal judge panel ruled that the overcrowding was the root cause of inadequate medical and mental health care and that is why they ordered the reduction in population.

        The out of state private prisons are held to the same standards as in state facilities. They must be in compliance with the same standards of care that are spelled out  for in state inmates. Inmates are pre-screened for eligibility to be housed out of state and those with serious medical or mental health problems are excluded.  Standards of care in out of state facilities are also audited at least annually by a team of physician and nurse consultants.

        The political reality is that Governor Brown was left with the choice of getting the legislature to authorize the spending of billions to build more prisons in California, or contracting out the housing with private prisons until a more palatable solution could be worked out since everyone with more than a brainstem knew that overcrowding was the root cause of the problems, and that sentencing reform was coming down the pipeline.  I think that temporary outsourcing was a smart solution.


      1. Miwok

        the people in prison had no integrity when they went in, and have no loyalty except to the gangs that pervade the prisons now. So the only integrity they learn is that.

        If you really believe these drug dealers are non-violent, get a spare room ready for one when he gets out of prison, adopt him  and see if your kids like to play with him, and all the people he brings as customers to your house.

        One thing I am not reading, and a source of my disdain for this article, is the people who are subjects of these criminals’ activities, for whatever reason, never get compensated for their grief at the invasion of their “safe space”.

        I regret the system is not more successful at changing the lives of these morons. If so, I would not stay locked up in my house, afraid that every time I leave, I  may not have it when I return. That feeling never goes away, and this article argues we must be more understanding of THEM?

  3. tj

    I wish comments showed up where they were supposed to be, and not underneath unrelated postings.

    Again, a week or so ago, Tia was somewhat offended when it appeared I was responding to her post, when I wasn’t.

  4. Tia Will

    Hi tj

    It’s a good thing that I don’t hold grudges. I don’t ever remember  ever being offended by something you wrote.  Oh….wait…..that might just be poor memory, after all, I am in my sixties. 😉

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