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(en) US, WD, Sodexho Marriott Stops "No More Prisons" Show

From Kevin Pranis <kpranis@igc.org>
Date Fri, 18 Feb 2000 09:16:15 -0500


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Prison Moratorium Project and
Students for a Sensible Drug Policy 
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY "NO MORE PRISONS" SHOW SHUT DOWN 
BY SODEXHO MARRIOTT SERVICES
EVENT PLANNED TO HIGHLIGHT COMPANY'S TIES TO PRIVATE 
PRISON INDUSTRY

Washington, D.C. -- On Feburary 15, two hundred students
came to American University's Mary Graydon Center to hear
performers featured on the forthcoming No More Prisons Hip
Hop Compilation CD. But when they arrived they were informed
by employees of Sodexho Marriott Services (SMS), which is
contracted to operate the venue, that the show had been
canceled.

David Epstein, a senior, explains that students had received
all of the appropriate authorizations from American University's 
Office of Student Activities. "Three hours before the event,
the SMS manager told us that the university didn't give them
time to prepare. They could have worked with us to make the
show happen. They refused to do that."

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and Prison
Moratorium Project (PMP), the groups that put the show
together with the support of Drug Reform Coordination
Network (DRCNet), have been critical of SMS' close ties to
the for-profit private prison industry. According to Kevin
Pranis, a Soros Justice Fellow and PMP activist who was
scheduled to speak at the event, the French-based Sodexho
group, which owns Sodexho Marriott Services, is the largest
investor in U.S. private prisons through its 11% holdings in
Prison Realty Trust/Corrections Corporation of America.

Articles detailing Sodexho's prison investments, and calling
on students to put pressure on SMS, have appeared in a
number of publications, such as Infusion, which reaches over
a hundred campuses throughout the U.S. and Canada. Students
have no evidence that these articles influenced the decision
to cancel the show, but they find the coincidence eerie. "I
don't know that the message had anything to do with it,"
says Epstein, "but I think it's disturbing that an outside
corporation can just shut down an authorized student event.
That's something students everywhere should be worried about."

According to Marty Leary, a researcher for the Hotel
Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union
(HERE), SMS has a bad record with free speech issues. 
"It's unfortunate, but I can't say that I'm surprised. This
company had a rule preventing its own employees from talking
to outsiders about their working conditions." To avoid civil
prosecution, SMS recently entered into a settlement with the
National Labor Relations Board and agreed to drop illegal
work rules.

Despite the initial setback, event organizers went into high
gear and managed to pull together equipment and transportation 
for a house party, hosted by junior and President of AU SSDP, 
Kate Sanders. Sanders explains "I just felt we owed it to
the artists-Apani B. Fly, Lyric and El Battalion-who drove
down from New York, and to all the students who showed up to
hear a positive and political Hip Hop message." The party
drew more than fifty students and organizers say that the
footage will be available in a week on
<http://www.zoomculture.com/ssdp>.

The No More Prisons show was organized as part of a
nationwide effort to protest the growing number of men 
and women behind bars, projected to exceed two million on
February 15, according to a study released by Justice Policy
Institute. Pranis says that the next big date will be April
4, 2000, when students at campuses across the country take
action against Sodexho Marriott Services.

For more information, see <http://www.nomoreprisons.org>.
Kevin Pranis, Prison Moratorium Project, 
(212) 727-8610 x23, kpranis@igc.org
Kris Lotlikar, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, 
(202) 293-8340, lotlikar@drcnet.org



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