Target: Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections
Goal: Boycott Food Services of America for their thinly-veiled attempt to keep its profits up by putting more people in prison on petty drug charges.
An organization called Food Services Group of America recently contributed $80,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy—a campaign that opposes the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona. At first glance this may seem frustrating to cannabis proponents, but still innocuous enough. Everyone is entitled to opinions, after all. But when we consider that Food Services of America, a subsidiary of Services Group of America, provides meals for correctional facilities, this sizable donation has much sleazier appearances.
Data from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has shown that marijuana accounts for over 50 percent of drug arrests in the United States—of those ganja-related arrests, 88 percent are for small-time possession. So basically, people are getting caught with a little pot and landing themselves in jail, with mandatory minimum sentences beginning at 15 days on a federal level. In Arizona, sentences range from four months to almost four years. And lest we forget, the vast majority of these folks are people of color. Drug arrests are racially biased—despite what the ACLU reports to be roughly equal usage rates, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for pot than white people. This is all well and good for Food Services of America, which makes more money the more people there are sitting in jail.
Other major contributors to the campaign against legalization are Insys Therapeutics (a pharmaceutical company), and Arizona Wholesale Wine and Spirits Association—both, logically, interested in protecting profits as well. With competition from marijuana retailers, the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries would lose some valuable customers in search of that perfect buzz. This is capitalism at its most basic. But when a company’s profits depend on a certain number of people consuming a product, and those people are prisoners, and the company appears to want as many people imprisoned as possible, that is capitalism at its ugliest.
There are plenty of meal providers out there—tell the Arizona Department of Corrections that it should boycott Food Services of America for its apparent attempts to influence the justice system to maintain profits. Supporting a policy that disproportionately targets people of color and profiting from putting people behind bars should not be tolerated.
Dear Director Ryan,
I am writing to inform you of an injustice. As I’m sure you know, legalization of recreational marijuana will be on the ballot next month in Arizona. What you may not know, however, is that a campaign against legalization—calling itself Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy—has received a sizable donation from Services Group of America, a company whose subsidiary, Food Services of America, provides meals for prisoners.
This appears to be an attempt to keep more people in prison so that Food Services of America can continue to profit by selling meals to them. Add to this the fact that 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for small-time possession, and disproportionately target people of color, and it appears that this company’s attempt to influence the system is unjust and should not be tolerated.
As such, I urge you to boycott Food Services of America in your facilities. You must see that there is no place for this mindset in our justice system. Private prisons are already on the way out in our country. We cannot continue to tolerate companies that make money by having people behind bars.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ken Teegardin