The Princeton Private Prison Divest (PPPD) political-activist group has demanded that Princeton’s endowment divest of shares in private organizations that operate correctional facilities. PPPD cites partisan-fueled studies and false information as support. One often-quoted source is a 2016 Department of Justice memo that misrepresented data and alleged that privately operated federal correctional facilities are more costly and inferior to government-operated facilities. 

Did the politically motivated memo acknowledge that private facilities house criminal illegal aliens, a more challenging population than the primarily U.S. citizens housed at public facilities? Or that private facilities have significantly fewer deaths, drug use, sexual-assault allegations, and inmate grievances, and publicly operated facilities are 28 percent more expensive? Of course not. 

A March 2017 opinion piece by The Daily Princetonian editorial board, opposing PPPD’s proposal, aptly articulated that the University is an educational institution, not a political-advocacy organization. Many companies sell items that some people find highly objectionable. Environmentalists object to oil-drilling companies and vegetarians to meat-packing companies. Still, it would be false to construe, for example, investments in ExxonMobil or Tyson Foods as a moral stance in favor of oil or meat consumption. 

The GEO Group, targeted by PPPD, invested several millions of dollars in R&D to develop enhanced offender-rehabilitation programming, including cognitive behavioral therapy and post-release services. In January, GEO was to receive the coveted American Correctional Association’s Innovation in Corrections award for the “GEO Continuum of Care.” 

Bottom line: The University’s endowment should invest in companies based on financial criteria, and not one group’s political ideology.

David Meehan ’98
Executive vice president of business development, GEO Care, Boca Raton, Fla.