Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores was asked this weekend about continued pressure from activists who say he profits on mass incarceration.
Gores told reporters Saturday it’s a “blessing” to be an owner of Securus — a prison telecom company his private equity investment firm, Platinum Equity, purchased for $1.6 billion in 2017. Securus has drawn criticism for years because of the high cost of calls at some correctional facilities, which advocates say puts a financial burden on families who want to communicate with their incarcerated loved ones.
Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores answers questions at the new Henry Ford Health System Detroit Pistons Performance Center in Detroit, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.
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“I really believe, and this is kind of what I believe and maybe I’m crazy, that ultimately it’ll be a blessing that I’m in there and that somebody cares about what’s happening,” Gores said during media availability ahead of Detroit’s double-overtime loss in its home opener.
The company operates private telephone systems in jails and prisons for more than a million inmates. Gores’ involvement in the corrections communications industry has been grilled by prison reform activists who’ve campaigned for him to sell his interests in Securus, or leave the ranks of NBA ownership.
He resigned from a Los Angeles County art board in October after dozens of artists signed a petition to have Gores removed.
Last week, Bianca Tylek of Worth Rises — a criminal justice reform nonprofit — ran a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for Gores to sell the Pistons.
The message in the Dec. 20 edition of the Times read: “If Black Lives Matter, what are you doing about Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores?” adding the names of NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the remaining 29 owners.
Worth Rises has set up a webpage that details its issues with Gores and Securus, including the fact that some incarcerated people are charged up to $15 for a 15-minute call, with those payments falling on lower income families and people of color.
The NBA told ESPN in a statement it has been “in regular communication with Tom Gores regarding their concerns.” The league reportedly said Gores and other Securus leaders have ongoing discussions with multiple groups focused on similar reform and “we support their efforts to address these important issues.”
Gores said the recent messaging “hurts.”
“I’m not gonna tell you that it doesn’t,” Gores said. “I have a family, but then I always kind of look at things and say, ‘Life’s happening for a reason and you’re put in that place to make a difference, so maybe that’s a blessing.’ Then I also think about people, especially in the African American community who have gone through a lot more judgment and pain than I have. They might judge me a certain way, and then I say, ‘Get your (expletive) together, Tom; let’s go fight this fight.'”
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New Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey listens as owner Tom Gores takes questions Wednesday, June 20, 2018, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Several questions touched on Securus during Gores’ first media session of the season with Detroit reporters. He talked about his company’s plans to cut charges and indicated that he’s a compassionate decision-maker for the firm.
Since being acquired three years ago by Platinum Equity, Securus has reduced the average cost of calls by 30%, it says, and is working to further reduce the average cost by an additional 15% over the next three years. The company has pledged to become more transparent and invest at least $3 million this year to reduce recidivism rates.
“I happen to really care about it, and people have asked me, ‘Hey, should you sell the company?’ No, why would I walk away where we can make change?” Gores said.
Tylek, in a previous interview with the Free Press, said that assessment is laughable.
“The problem is, they’ve gone from charging people $25 for a 15-minute phone call to charging people $15 for a 15-minute phone call, and want to call it reform,” Tylek said.
Worth Rises and other organizations have called on Gores to enact a number of changes that would make the prison telecom industry, which Securus is a primary participant in, more “ethical.”
Gores was not specific Saturday but said he is working toward improving the correctional communications sector.
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“We have been really doing a lot of work to reform the industry and even forgetting the company,” Gores said. “And it’s crazy, it’s not that I’m excited about it; I just think this is a unique opportunity for me and for us to impact our country and the world in a bit because it’s not really about this one company — it’s about an industry that really does need to be changed.”
“We’ve recognized it, but we’ve been doing it also, and we can communicate with you guys more and more on this topic. We’ve been doing it; we’re aligning ourselves with really important people, influential people. … We’re drawing on people from the league. We’re discussing things with the players’ association. So I think we’re doing it, and this is even beyond basketball. Basketball is basketball.”
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores defends dealings with Securus
Published: 2020-12-28 11:01:28
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