Today, the Department of Justice announced that it will begin to phase out federal Bureau of Prisons contracts with private prisons, which make up approximately 15% of revenues for prison companies GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America. The move will impact those incarcerated in Criminal Alien Requirement prisons, where some of the worst recent prison abuses have taken place.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today introduced legislation that would limit the ability of private companies that operate prisons to take advantage of special tax rules for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) -- U.S. corporations that invest in real estate. The Ending Tax Breaks for Private Prisons Act of 2016 would significantly weaken the for-profit prison industry, and free up millions of dollars that could be reinvested in services that actually keep our communities safe.
Campaigns across the United States encouraging institutions to divest from G4S have contributed to pressure on the company. Last year Columbia University became the first university in America to divest from private prisons, including G4S, following a campaign driven by students. In 2014, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sold the entirety of its $170 million stake in G4S following an international campaign and the United Methodist Church divested from G4S “due in part to concerns about the company’s involvement in human rights violations in the Israeli prison system and the military occupation of Palestinian territories.” In Durham, NC, activists successfully encouraged the county council to end a $1 million private security contract with G4S.
After several months of deliberation and community input, on February 22, 2016 the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) committee voted unanimously to recommend that the City of Portland divest of their holdings in Wells Fargo & Company due to the company’s financing of for-profit incarceration, and their “morally bankrupt” lending practices.
The University of California Chief Investment Officer announced yesterday that the UC endowment will divest $25 million in prison investments, making the UC system the second major university to divest of private prisons after a similar decision in June of this year at Columbia University. The University of California endowment has been targeted by a national prison divestment effort led locally by the Afrikan Black Coalition and Black Student Unions across California for its unethical prison investments.
The California Endowment announced this week that it will end all direct investments in companies that derive significant annual revenue from the operation of private prisons, jails, detention centers and correctional facilities. With assets of over $3.5 billion, this is the largest fund to dump its support for the private prison industry since Columbia University divested earlier this year, and it is the first Foundation to publicly divest from private prisons. What an incredible victory to end the year!
Responding to 16 months of organizing led by Columbia Prison Divest and supported by the national Prison Divestment Campaign, the Columbia University Board of Trustees decided June 22, 2015 to divest from prisons. The student and national campaigns demand and organize for prison divestment because of the active role private prisons play in lobbying to criminalize communities of color and immigrants. Columbia will be the first university in the country to divest its endowment from the private prison industry.
A coalition of prison divestment and housing advocates will protest the REITWeek 2015: NAREIT's Investor Forum, demanding End Tax Breaks for Prison Profiteers and Slumlords! June 9th to 11th hundreds of investors will participate in the REIT Conference, including the Million Shares Club and CEOs of GEO and CCA. The coalition demands that Private Prisons & Million Shares Club stop displacing people from their homes and locking them up for profit.
Boca Raton, FL – On April 29, 2014, over 100 people from across the country joined a protest outside the GEO Group’s annual shareholder meeting at the Boca Resort and Club. GEO, a private company, bills itself as the “largest provider of correctional services in the world.” Groups participating in the protest included Florida Immigrant Coalition, Dream Defenders, Florida New Majority, Power U Center for Social Change, Responsible Endowments Coalition, Grassroots Leadership, Enlace and others.
Portland, Ore --. Portland City Council voted on December 17, 2014 to implement a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy that will consider corporate abuses of human rights, such as those committed by the GEO Group which operates the Tacoma, WA Northwest Detention Center. The policy will be overseen by an appointed citizen committee that will be “reflective of the diversity of…Portland.” The human rights and diversity provisions were both requested by Voz and Enlace.
Enlace lauds President Obama’s executive action for its positive impact on 5 million undocumented immigrants, however 7 million immigrants face increased threats of incarceration, detention, and deportation under Obama’s plan. The Department of Homeland Security’s new Priority Enforcement Program furthers the deportation pipeline, the criminalization of immigrants, and the militarization of the border.
OP-ED: Our Tax Money is Funding Private Prisons; Let's Fix This
November 21, 2016 • Street Roots
Check out this recent op-ed from our Deputy Director, Amanda!
Soon, prison divestment will be up for a vote at the Portland City Council. We have the opportunity to set a national precedent that other cities will follow, to help financially isolate the prison industry and to stop its growth.
Report: The Banks That Finance Private Prison Companies
November 17, 2016
From our partners at In the Public Interest.
The Banks That Finance Private Prison Companies shows that six banks have played large roles in bankrolling CoreCivic and GEO Group: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, and U.S. Bancorp.
With their expertise in corporate research, Enlace's Daniel Carrillo and Peter Cervantes-Gautschi discovered that Corrections Corporation of America–the largest private prison firm in the United States–had actually drafted a bill to criminalize immigrants, all so they could be locked up in CCA's prisons.
Peter Cervantes-Gautschi illustrates that in order to free undocumented immigrants from the threat of incarceration, the focus has to be on reducing the corporate prison industry’s influence on Congress.
Traditional immigration activists are now being joined by anti-war, feminist and climate action groups, and others. The broad coordination is possible because the U.S. immigration system bleeds into so many areas of progressive ire, from police brutality and labor abuse to the ongoing wave of privatization and financialization. “We really prioritize building intersectional coalitions,” says Daniel Carrillo, executive director of ENLACE.
Investment Banks Doubled Down on Immigration Detention Amidst Family Separation
August 27, 2018 Image Credit: Enlace
Several investment banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase, bet big on the profitability of immigration detention earlier this year when they decided to extend a $1 billion credit line to private prison company CoreCivic.
Wall Street’s Ties to the Private Immigrant-Detention Network
July 24, 2018
As the demand for a comprehensive immigration overhaul grows, the prison divestment campaign seeks to demonstrate the economic leverage that ordinary consumers, workers, and universities can wield when they seek integrity and accountability in the way capital interacts with public institutions and communities.
In addition, Enlace and other grassroots organizations are pushing for community reinvestment along with divestment, including the establishment of a public bank in New York City to create a financial alternative to placing funds in financial firms linked to the prison system.
Protests Disrupt Real Estate Conference over Private Prison Companies’ Attendance
June 6, 2018
In New York City, an annual real estate conference faced protest Tuesday over the attendance of private prison companies. GEO Group and CoreCivic converted in 2013 to real estate investment trusts, or REITs, to avoid paying corporate taxes. The Republican tax plan also offers a 25 percent tax cut on investments in prisons.
Check out what Enlace's Executive Director, Daniel Carrillo, had to say on Democracy Now
The crowd also heard from a Brooklyn resident whose rent has doubled in recent years and who spoke about the exorbitant fees New Yorkers pay to big banks every year, a student who spoke out against predatory loan practices and Wall Street's investment of billions of dollars in fossil fuels that accelerate and worsen the climate crisis, and a social justice activist who told the crowd of JPMorgan Chase's support for private prisons.
"As long as the city continues to deposit its money in prison financiers like JPMorgan Chase, we will remain complicit in systems of oppression that profit off of incarcerating our communities," said Basma Eid of the racial and economic justice group Enlace. "It's time New York City puts its money where its mouth is, divests from Wall Street, and—through a public bank—invests in us."
...Estas organizaciones se dieron cita frente a la bolsa de Wall Street presionando por la creación de Public Bank NYC y desinvertir en la banca comercial que según sus críticas están perjudicando a los neoyorquinos y la ciudad financiando el cambio climático, las prisiones privadas y la gentrificación, entre otros problemas. La demanda es que este banco público apoye e invierta en desarrollo comunitario sostenible además el avance de la justicia racial económica y medioambiental en la ciudad.
En el evento del martes se denunció que la ciudad siga depositando el dinero de todos en un banco como JP Morgan Chase que está financiando prisiones privadas, algo que ya le ha valido la denuncia pública de Se Hace Camino NY. De esta manera “somos cómplices de un sistema de opresión que se beneficia del encarcelamiento de nuestras comunidades”, dijo Basma Eid de la organización Enlace.
BRONX, NEW YORK — People across the country participated in Night Out for Safety and Liberation events in 30 cities on Tuesday to demonstrate how they imagine a community without police violence. In the Bronx borough of New York City, NYC Freedom Cities and the New York Worker Center Federation hosted its own NOSL action.
Night Out for Safety and Liberation events began in 2013 as a response to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin and the violence inflicted on black and brown communities by police. The event’s guiding mission is to promote the idea that police-focused solutions cause harm to people of color and don’t lead to better or safer communities. It also serves as a response to the annual National Night Out held by police departments across the country that aim to foster better relations between police and communities.
Advocates for people of color and immigrants protesting police brutality showed up to the NYPD’s annual “National Night Out Against Crime” to outline their “vision of safety” for their communities, which they said should center on community investments rather than a heavy police presence.
“Night Out For Safety and Liberation,” established by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that advocates for racial and economic justice for low-income individuals and people of color, is an annual event that occurs on the first Tuesday of August.
The New York Worker Center Federation, a multiracial movement of workers and immigrants organizing across sectors and issues, has been running the New York City event for three years. This year, the event took place in Brook Park in the South Bronx
Reality Check: More Police Officers Don’t Equal Safer Neighborhoods
July 4, 2017 • YES! Magazine
On Inauguration Day, a coalition of New York City-based organizations held a mass demonstration outside the Trump Hotel, demanding resources for oppressed communities not only to survive, but also to thrive. The coalition wants sanctuary to include the provision of safety for citizens who live in danger daily.
In Los Angeles, the City Council voted unanimously on June 27 to begin taking steps toward divesting $40 million from its holdings in Wells Fargo, which has come under fire in recent years for defrauding consumers, funding the Dakota Access pipeline, financing private prison corporations, and otherwise engaging in disreputable practices. Los Angeles joins numerous other cities, from Seattle, Washington, to Missoula, Montana, that have announced their intentions to cut ties with the banking behemoth.
NYC Pension Funds Withdraw Investments From Private Prisons
June 8, 2017 • Bloomberg
New York City’s pension funds have decided to sell its investments in private prison companies, citing a record of alleged human rights abuses and citing the risk of the industry attracting “long-term reputational and financial harm.”
“Morally, the industry wants to turn back the clock on years of progress on criminal justice, and we can’t sit idly by and watch that happen,” said Stringer, who serves as the funds’ custodian and investment adviser. “Divesting is simply the right thing to do, financially and morally.”
Portland City Council passed an amendment Wednesday (April 5) with a unanimous vote to end new investments in corporate securities in stocks and private bonds, including the Dakota Access Pipeline, President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, corporations complicit in prisons and the occupation of Palestine.
"The mayor's investment policy backslides from a system that city council did not give a chance to work, and replaces it with an undemocratic, secretive process," says Jamie Trinkle of the group Enlace, which has pushed heavily for divestment from private prison companies. "This is not in line with the city's values and its unanimous support of becoming a sanctuary city, of supporting fossil fuel divestment, of asserting support for Standing Rock."
University of California Next In Line To Dump Wells Fargo Contracts
February 3, 2017 • Yes! Magazine
The divest movement urging people to take their money out of banks that behave unethically has consistently been gaining traction, and no bank is getting more pressure these days than Wells Fargo. In the latest hit, it is set to lose $475 million in contracts with the University of California.
Basma Eid helped organize the Freedom Cities protest outside Trump hotel as a part of Enlace, the New York Worker Center Federation. She protested for the rights of workers, from street vendors to construction workers. Some protesters’ signs made their intents clear, especially at Freedom Cities. Their posters featured their definition of safety, whether that was free healthcare, the right to organize or divesting from police and prisons.
The city of Portland, Oregon, has voted to temporarily halt its investments in all corporate securities after a broad coalition of activists urged the city to drop financial relationships with companies involved in human rights violations.
Portland Invests Millions in Banks that Fund Controversial Private Prisons
November 30, 2016 • Portland Mercury
if the election bolstered for-profit prison corporations, it also made the target on their backs all the brighter. And if local advocates have their way, Portland will be at the forefront of a new movement to snuff them out.
Dirty money: Portland tax dollars help support private prisons
November 21, 2016 • Street Roots
A broad coalition of two dozen unions, civil rights organizations, churches and other local community groups, calling itself the Portland Prison Divestment Coalition, is pushing City Council to approve the committee’s recommendations and stop investing in major financial supporters of private prisons – Wells Fargo, Bank of New York Mellon Corp., JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. and HSBC Bank USA.
Meet the Six Big Banks Keeping Private Prisons in Business
November 17, 2016
“The banks are enabling these companies to profit off the criminal justice system,” said Davis. “If these companies didn’t have access to revolving credit, it would become much harder for them to finance their businesses.”
How Wall Street Firms Make Money From Donald Trump’s Prison Policy
November 17, 2016
A new report released today by In The Public Interest reveals that six major Wall Street firms work in tandem with the industry: financing its debts, servicing its bonds, and extending billions of dollars in credit to pay for its operating expenses and expansion into related markets, like selling ankle GPS systems to monitor immigrants.
President Trump Is Just What the Private Prison Industry Ordered
November 17, 2016
“One thing is certain under a Trump Presidency: We will no longer even have the veneer of relying on the federal government to protect immigrant and refugee communities,” says Amanda Aguilar Shank, deputy director of immigration and anti-incarceration advocacy group Enlace, which has been pressuring cities like Portland to divest from the private prison industry and the banks that finance it. “To protect ourselves,” she tells In These Times, “we have to use the power we have at the local level, and the power of our dollars.”
Is This the Beginning of the End for the Private Prison Industry?
August 22, 2016 • Alternet
Likely the most far-reaching opposition has come from the National Private Prison Divestment Campaign, launched in 2011... Focused on pressuring institutional investors to divest holdings in private prison shares, this campaign has involved more than 200 partner groups. The Campaign has won divestment victories at UC Berkeley, Wesleyan and Columbia as well as persuading investment firms like Pershing Square Capital Management and Allianz Asset Management to strip away shares in private prisons.
Ending private prisons at the federal level marks a major movement victory
August 19, 2016 • Waging Nonviolence
When the U.S. Department of Justice announced its intentions to begin phasing out its use of private contractors in federal prisons, many welcomed this as a significant step in the dismantling of a profit-driven model of mass incarceration....While the announcement caused a major shake-up around the country — not least of which on Wall Street, where the stocks of the two largest private corrections companiesplummeted — activists recognize years of tedious work that preceded the DOJ decision.
What the DOJ’s new private prison policy could mean for the prison divestment movement
August 19, 2016 • Fusion
For years, activists have urged companies, pensions, and universities to divest from private prisons—with only limited success. But yesterday, when stocks of the two biggest private prison companies in the country fell more than 35%, might signal a new frontier in the divestment movement.
Not every Washington secret gets leaked. The U.S. Department of Justice surprised investors in the for-profit prison sector on Thursday with the news that it will phase out the use of private contractors to incarcerate federal prisoners. It’s an industry that has attracted enough questions to provoke divestment campaigns – and these can pose financial, not just moral, dangers.
Canaccord Genuity analysts Ryan Meliker and Michael Kodesch might have a message for the Gates Foundation: buy stock in for profit prisons on a drawdown. The Gates Foundation was the subject of 2014 protests for its involvement in investing in prison businesses whose ethical standards were coming under fire. Other large institutional investors have shed shares of the private prison providers. Today, after the US Department of Justice announced it was phasing out use of for profit prisons, the share prices fell dramatically.
In a major victory for the criminal justice reform movement, the Department of Justice released plans today to end its use of private prisons over the next five years, according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The Department of Justice announced Thursday that it will stop outsourcing federal prisons to private prison companies after their current contracts expire. But that doesn’t mean the federal government is actually ending private prisons.
The United States is known for having the largest prison population in the world—a dubious distinction that’s the result of decades of “get tough” policies, including mandatory drug sentences and three-strikes laws. Now thanks to an announcement Thursday by the United States Department of Justice, fewer federal inmates will be locked up in privately owned penitentiaries.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced legislation last week that would make it tougher for private prison companies to take advantage of federal rules that provide massive tax breaks for special real estate firms, a move that racial justice and prison divestment activists say is an important step toward confronting the corporations that control around 8 percent of the nation's prisons and immigrant jails.
The two largest private prison firms in the United States are exploiting a loophole in the tax code to secure millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group avoided a combined $113 million in federal income taxes in 2015 alone, according to an analysis of federal financial filings by the racial and economic justice group Enlace.