Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores resigned from his position on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts on Thursday night. The move came after activist groups demanded that Gores, whose investment firm owns the prison telecommunications company Securus, be removed.
The Los Angeles Times was the first to report the resignation.
Over the years, activists have worked with public officials to try and make phone calls free or cheaper for incarcerated people.
For years criminal justice activists have pressed the Pistons owner for what they called the exploitative nature of the business model of Securus, which is owned by Platnium Equity.
When contacted about Thursday’s resignation, a spokesperson for Platinum Equity shared a copy of the letter Gores sent to Govan and the museum’s board of trustees.
In the letter, the Pistons owner stated that Platinum Equity was committed to reforming Securus from the inside. He added that they’ve already made significant changes, but that they still have work to do.
The spokesperson also shared material that highlighted some of the work Securus has done this year including a 14 percent reduction in the price of phone calls over the last year. The pamphlet also shared that the goal of Platinum Equity is to turn Securus into a successful, responsible market leader, and then to divest it.
When asked what the timeline for reform and divestment looked like, the spokesperson did not provide specific details.
“We’re doing the hard work of social justice reform where it’s needed most: from the ground up at Securus and the corrections agencies it serves,” said Platinum Equity partner, Mark Barnhill, in a statement. “It’s easy enough to talk about these matters in rhetorical salons or on Twitter. It’s much harder, and much more important, to shoulder the hard work on the ground. We’ll divest from Securus eventually as part of our normal investment lifecycle. But the path to exit runs through reform, and we are undeterred in doing the heavy lifting that goes along with that.”
Last month, Color for Change and Worth Rises, two activist groups sent a letter to the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. followed by a petition with more than 100 signatures of artists and donors.
For Scott Roberts, senior director of Criminal Justice Campaigns for Color Of Change, Thursday’s resignation showed that the remaining members of the board may have found values in the letter that resonated with them.
“Especially in these times, there’s really no seat at the table for kind of community leadership, philanthropic leadership, for someone who is building a business model around profiting off of mass incarceration and economic exploitation on some of our most vulnerable families in the country,” Roberts said.
The Times also reported that the letter and petition were discussed last week at a Board of Trustees meeting, According to the report, Gores defended the investment and shared that Platinum Equity was working to reform Securus.
Some of the things Roberts, who has also reached out to the NBA, as well as players, is looking to address are: free phone calls for children, lowering the costs of phone calls in other cases and not charging deposit fees on the accounts used to make calls.
“I think, honestly, in an ideal world, Tom Gores would, cut his losses, and say, ‘It’s wrong, to try and profit off of these circumstances’ (and) reorient Securus’ model, if they’re going to stay in the prison business, to providing service without trying to make money off of it,” Roberts said.
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