Target: Bill Gates, Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Goal: Call on Bill Gates to end the Foundation’s investments in notorious private prison company GEO Group
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is known for its global health and college-ready education initiatives. To fund its projects the Foundation operates an endowment with investments, which the Gates’ supervise. While the Foundation refrains from investing in tobacco stocks and other “companies whose profit model…they find egregious,” $2.2 million is invested in a notorious private prison company linked to prisoner abuse, medical neglect and civil rights violations.
GEO Group has been involved in hundreds of lawsuits concerning its private prisons and immigrant detention centers. Its motivation to maximize profits has been called fundamentally at odds with traditional law enforcement goals like public safety and rehabilitation. Why, then, would the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation choose to invest in such a company?
Protesters recently gathered outside the Foundation’s Seattle headquarters to demand immediate divestment from GEO Group. Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org, said at the rally, “Unless they divest, the Gates Foundation will drag their legacy into the mud of wasteful, overcrowded and abusive immigrant prisons.” Call on Bill Gates to immediately suspend the Foundation’s investments in GEO Group.
Dear Mr. Gates,
While I do admire the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its focus on health and education, I am writing to urge you to put your money where your mouth is. GEO Group has been involved in hundreds of lawsuits alleging inmate abuse, medical neglect, employment discrimination, chronic understaffing and various civil rights violations going back more than a decade. The company typically settles these cases before trial. To see the Foundation invested in for-profit prisons through GEO Group casts a shadow over the philanthropic work and lofty goals you claim to prize so highly.
I am not alone in my concerns. Protesters have visited the Foundation’s headquarters to demand divestment, and hundreds of detained immigrants in Washington State have gone on hunger strike to call for an end to unjust deportations. As Presente.org Executive Director Arturo Carmona put it, “With Latinos now the largest group in federal prisons and detention centers–mostly for minor or non-existent crimes–the Gates’ investment is particularly galling for us.”
GEO Group’s reputation for egregious corporate behavior is unquestionable. I am shocked to know that while the Gates Foundation chooses not to invest in tobacco stock for moral reasons it nonetheless invests millions in for-profit prisons. I urge you to insist upon the Foundation’s complete and immediate divestment from GEO Group.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: World Economic Forum via Flickr