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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. ” – César Chávez, UFW

Pressure Increases for Gates Foundation to Divest from Private Prisons, Gates Scholars Join Fight

On the Heels of Gates Announcement that They Will Divest from International Private Private Jailer GS4, US Pressure to Divest from GEO Group Rises

June 17, 2014

Seattle, WA-- Today, 12 Gates’ Foundation Scholars joined together to send an open letter to the foundation that funded their educations to urge them to live up to their mission and divest from private prisons. The Gates Foundation has more than 2 million dollars invested in GEO Group, a corporation that runs private prisons and detention centers that have been repeatedly cited for human rights violations, violence, and even sexual abuse. Just last week, the foundation announced it would divest from international private jailer GS4, bringing increased scrutiny to their continued investments in GEO Group.

See the letter here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.presente.org/images/2014_June_17_Gates_Scholars.docx

The letter reads: As Gates Scholars, we believe that it is not enough to do well; we must also do good. We were encouraged to learn that of the Foundation Trust's recent divestment from G4S, the international private jailer. We sincerely hope this portends your imminent divestment from The GEO Group. We call on you to renew your commitment to underrepresented communities, and immediately and permanently divest from all private prison companies.

“I was deeply troubled to learn that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was investing in the private prison industry,” said Sara Lippek, a Gates Scholar in Seattle, WA who practices immigration and civil rights law. “GEO Group has been sanctioned repeatedly for keeping prisoners in filthy and degrading conditions, and lobbied heavily for additional incarceration, heavier sentences, and imprisonment of undocumented families. This is entirely contrary to the values of human dignity, respect, and service that I hold dear as a Gates Scholar.”

Today’s letter comes as Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group, launched new online ads calling on Gates to divest. The ads will be up on Facebook starting today. See those ads here: https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/presenteorg/14259924888/ and https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/presenteorg/13938994470/

“I urge the Gates Foundation to stop funding the future of some by financing the subversion of others and to divest from a broken system that profits from human ignorance and misery.” said Benjamin Miller, a Gates Scholar who resides in Davis, CA and is currently employed by Oracle as a software engineer.

More than 13,000 Presente.org members have called on the Gates Foundation to stop harming the Latino community by imprisoning people for profit. See their petition here: http://act.presente.org/sign/gatesdivestment/

“The Gates Foundation is funding the incarceration of people for profit, and that is wholly unacceptable,” said Mariana Ruiz Firmat, Managing Director of Presente.org. “By divesting from GS4, it’s clear that the Gates Foundation knows what it is doing is immoral, and we urge them to take the next logical step and divest from the GEO Group as well. GEO group has a profit driven incentive to promote and maintain unfair sentencing laws. If Gates doesn’t divest from all corporations like GS4 and GEO group not only are they contradicting the Foundation’s mission but they are harming their reputation as a social good organization.”