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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Washington Calls for Prison Divestment, Cites Mass Incarceration as Public Health Issue

The University of Washington 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 Patrick Shanahan. The memo describes the nation’s high rate of incarceration and how the prison population is drawn from the most disadvantaged groups: people of color and those who are poorly educated.

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:

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; Senior Associate Dean Shirley Beresford; Assistant Dean Annette Fitzpatrick; Assistant Dean Sara Mackenzie; Uli Haller, senior director of finance and administration; and India Ornelas, faculty champion of diversity.