This piece was originally posted on the School of Public Health website.

SEATTLE – The UW School of Public Health issued a statement calling for the University of Washington to disengage from the prison industry, citing mass incarceration as a public health and moral crisis.

Dean Howard Frumkin, the chairs of the School’s five departments, and other senior SPH leaders wrote a memo on prison divestment on July 15, 2016, to UW President Ana Mari Cauce, Provost Gerald Baldasty and Board of Regents Chair William S. Ayer. The School’s action came after an active group of students, staff and faculty had raised the issue.

The School’s statement notes the UW may be institutionally engaged with prisons through the purchase of goods manufactured by Washington state’s prison inmate work program, Washington Correctional Industries. It also notes the University may hold investments in private prison firms.

“We understand that the University is currently assessing both forms of engagement,” the statement says. “We understand further that both issues are complex…. Despite these complexities, we believe that both forms of engagement represent support of, and complicity with, mass incarceration, and therefore undermine public health and social and racial justice.”

The School leadership asks the UW:

  • To pursue all legal means to cease purchasing from Washington Correctional Industries or to work with lawmakers to change state law.
  • To divest itself of any direct holdings in the private prison industry, and work with fund managers toward divesting consolidated funds of such holdings.

The statement was signed by Dean Frumkin; Patrick Heagerty, chair of Biostatistics; Michael Yost, chair of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences; Victoria Holt, chair of Epidemiology; Judith Wasserheit, chair of Global Health; Jeffrey Harris, chair of Health Services; Professor and Senior Associate Dean Shirley Beresford; Research Professor and Assistant Dean Sara Mackenzie; Uli Haller, senior director of finance and administration; and India Ornelas, assistant professor of health services and faculty champion of diversity.

Read the full statement