Capitol Alert

University of California sells private prison holdings following student campaign

Men wait outside the Cimarron Correctional Facility, in Cushing, Okla., which is owned by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.
Men wait outside the Cimarron Correctional Facility, in Cushing, Okla., which is owned by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. The Associated Press

The University of California has dropped its investments in two companies that build and operate private correctional facilities after demands from a student group.

In late November, the Afrikan Black Coalition, which unites black student organizations at UC’s ten campuses, began calling for the university to divest about $25 million worth of shares in Corrections Corporation of America and The Geo Group.

Yoel Haile, the coalition’s political director and a master’s student in public policy at UC Berkeley, said the appeal was part of a campaign against private prison companies, which the students believe have contributed to the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans during the country’s “war on drugs.”

“In this critical time in the Black Lives Matter movement, we have to direct our attention to the main institutions that are keeping our people down and locking our people out of opportunities,” he said. “This is one initial battle that we have won on the way to make private prisons illegal.”

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said Monday that the university has sold its holdings, which made up a small part of its $100 billion portfolio. She said UC has a policy against divestment, but after meeting with representatives from the Afrikan Black Coalition, the university’s chief investment officer no longer considered the companies to meet its sustainable investment policy.

“It was from a risk perspective,” Klein said. “Does this make financial sense over the long term?”

The Afrikan Black Coalition is still asking UC to pull about $425 million out of Wells Fargo, a large investor in private prison companies, unless the bank cancels its own business relationships with Corrections Corporation of America and The Geo Group. Klein said the university does not think it makes financial sense to sell its Wells Fargo holdings.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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