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.