Groups clamor for divestment from prison company

Around 100 Yale students and faculty members gathered at Beinecke Plaza on Thursday afternoon to hear faculty members denounce Yale’s investment in the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison-operating company.

The demonstration, which was organized by the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and featured four faculty speakers, was organized to protest Yale’s $1.5 million investment in CCA, the sixth-largest prison operator in the nation, behind the federal government and four states.

Protestors said they want the University to divest from the company because there are a disproportionate number of minorities incarcerated and inmates are allegedly inhumanely treated in CCA prisons. Critics also accused CCA of lobbying for harsher sentencing in order to generate more revenue.

But Yale President Richard Levin said CCA is regulated by the government and Yale’s investment in it does not violate any University policies.

“There may be some parts of your policies that people don’t like, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they meet the test for divestment,” Levin said.

John Roemer, a political science professor who spoke at the rally, said the way the private prison industry operates is “racist,” as most of those incarcerated are black and Hispanic. He also said private prisons are not held to the same accountability standards as public prisons.

“The more links in the chain there are, … the more difficult the monitoring becomes,” he said.

The CCA also has a direct profit motive for maximizing the number of prisoners that come through its doors and the time they spend incarcerated, said James Scott, a political science professor who spoke at the rally.

“They help produce the system that generates their profit,” Scott said.

But Geert Rouwenhorst, chair of the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, said he and his colleagues on the committee do not believe that Yale’s investment in CCA is unethical. ACIR ensures that Yale conforms to guidelines set out in “The Ethical Investor,” a book written in the early 1970s by three Yale professors that the University uses as a standard for its investment policies.

“The question is, ‘Is it something that violates the principles of ethical investing that The Ethical Investor set forth?'” he said. “At this point, we are not convinced that it is.”

Yale invests in CCA through Farallon Capital Management, which was founded by two Yale alumni. Farallon is a hedge fund that controls almost $10 billion in assets and owns 5.5 percent of CCA. Yale alone has around $500 million invested through Farallon, according to GESO.

Sarah Haley GRD ’09, who wrote the GESO report on Yale’s investment in CCA, said Yale has the opportunity to influence Farallon’s investment practices.

“[Yale] has a crucial, influential stake in where Farallon invests,” she said.

Phoebe Rounds ’07, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said she thinks Yale’s investment in Farallon is inconsistent with its purpose.

“Investments are really the way that the University affects the real world,” she said. “When you see investments like this, it’s entirely antithetical to the entire mission of the University.”

CCA operates 63 prisons in 19 states and the District of Columbia. It manages 62,000 of the more than 1 million people incarcerated in the United States.

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