Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores steps down from L.A. art museum board after public pressure

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Pistons owner and Platinum Equity Tom Gores stepped down from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Board of Trustees on Thursday night, following pressure from activists over his investment firm’s ownership of a prison telephone company.

In 2017, Platinum Equity acquired Securus — a company that operates private telephone systems in all 50 states for more than a million prisoners. Gores’ involvement in the prison telecom industry has been met with criticism by various activists, and came to a head in September.

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Last month, two Civil Rights non-profit groups, Colors of Change and Worth Rises, penned a letter to the LACMA calling for Gores’ dismissal. The gesture spurred a second letter supporting Gores’ dismissal that was signed by more than 200 artists and art supporters, some of whom have ties to the museum.

“Today, the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art made it clear that there is no seat at the table for prison profiteers,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, said in a statement. “Thanks to this coordinated campaign, Tom Gores was finally removed from LACMA’s Board of Trustees as a result of his dealings in the prison industry. As owner of Securus, Gores has exploited incarcerated people and their families — who are overwhelmingly Black and low-income — with exorbitant fees for prison phone calls. We applaud this resignation, but in order to truly see justice done, Congress must act and approve the Martha Wright Phone Justice Act to ensure that Tom Gores and other billionaires can no longer profit off the pain of Black families.”

In 2018, a lawsuit was filed accusing Securus of inflating the cost of phone calls, which further financially burdened families with incarcerated family members, and harming Massachusetts by paying illegal kickbacks in order to secure exclusive phone service contracts.

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Since being acquired by Platinum Equity, Securus says it has reduced the average cost of calls by 30% 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 and improve reentry rates, among other reform efforts.

“As some board members know, long before this issue surfaced I pledged 100% of my personal interest in Securus to meet the challenges of reform, and to be sure all families in need have the opportunity to connect,” Gores said in his resignation letter. “We have developed a philanthropic effort alongside the business reforms, and we welcome any of you that are interested in this topic to reach out and continue our conversations.

“We didn’t know when we acquired Securus that it would become a nexus for addressing the political, social, racial and economic issues roiling America today,” the letter continued. “But now that we are here, we will not shy away from the hard work ahead. We’ve made substantial progress but there is more to do. We are investors and business operators, not activists, but we embrace the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in support of social justice, racial equity and criminal justice reform.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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