On Monday, December 7, The California Endowment—a private, statewide foundation that focuses on ensuring health and justice for all Californians—announced that it will no longer make direct investments in companies profiting from for-profit prisons, jails, and detention centers. President and CEO Robert K. Ross explained the decision, writing “It is essential our investment strategies take into account the potential impacts they could have on the communities we serve.”
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) congratulates The California Endowment on this action. The announcement comes as national pressure across the country grows for foundations and universities to divest from mass incarceration. Over the past several years, socially responsible investment companies and religious institutions have heeded the call, and in June of this year, Columbia University became the first U.S. university to divest from for-profit prison companies.
AFSC has long opposed mass incarceration and corporations profiting off the prison industrial complex. The U.S. holds over 2.2 million people behind bars, and about 5 million more under probation or parole. Privatization incentivizes corporations to lobby for harsh criminal justice policies that tear apart communities while undermining, rather than addressing, community safety.
In November, AFSC released an investment screening tool that allows individuals and investment firms to scan their holdings for prison related investments. Containing previously unpublished research, the tool maps the wider prison industry, profiles the main companies profiting, and recommends five specific companies for divestment.