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documentary explores 'Kids for Cash' scandal

by MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press on February 03, 2014 10:20 AM

 

 

 
 

PHILADELPHIA — Charlie Balasavage, a baby-faced boy of 14, landed in juvenile detention after his parents bought him a stolen scooter. Hillary Transue was sent away over a MySpace parody of her vice principal. Justin Bodnar was locked up for mouthing off to a woman at his school bus stop.

They are just three among thousands of youths whose lives were derailed by a corrupt Pennsylvania judge, a post-Columbine fervor for zero-tolerance policies and a secretive juvenile court system, a story detailed in a new documentary, “Kids for Cash.”

“I wanted them to be scared out of their minds. I don’t understand how that’s a bad thing,” disgraced former judge Mark Ciavarella says in the film, which chronicles the abusive practices — and kickback scandal — that festered behind closed doors at his Wilkes-Barre courtroom. The film will premiere Wednesday in Philadelphia before opening in theaters nationwide.

Ciavarella is serving a 28-year sentence — and fellow ex-judge Michael Conahan 17 years — for taking $2.6 million from companies looking to build and fill a youth detention center for Luzerne County. Children as young as 10 were handcuffed and shackled without so much as a chance to say goodbye to their families. The scandal was widely labeled “Kids for Cash,” though the judges deny any such quid pro quo.

“I never sent a kid away for a penny. I’m not this mad judge who was just putting them in shackles, throwing kids away,” says Ciavarella, who jailed petty offenders long before the kickback scheme and was applauded by school administrators and the public.

The Kafka-esque stories of children he removed from home after five-minute hearings, with no defense lawyers in court, have been told in news accounts, lawsuits and investigative hearings since the scandal broke in 2008. The film follows five teens as they try to rebuild their lives. Once in the juvenile court system, most cycled in and out of custody for years.

“He went there as a free-spirited kid. He came out a hardened man,” Sandy Fonzo says of her son.

Director Robert May, who produced the Oscar-winning documentary “Fog of War” and “The Station Agent,” won the trust of the fallen judges, who secretly met with him as their case played out. He felt their cooperation was crucial to give the film balance and tension.

“No one wants to go see a preachy film,” said May, who works in New York City but lives in Luzerne County. “I am proud every time somebody says they have empathy for the judges, or it screws up everything they thought they knew (about the case).”

He portrays the judges as arrogant and detached but still human. Ciavarella, a bully on the bench, quietly reflects on his stern childhood and midlife desire to leave his family financially secure.

Much of the filming takes place in winter, when the rugged northeastern Pennsylvania landscape feels especially bleak. It’s a world away from the brilliant sunshine of South Florida, where the wealthy Conahan is interviewed — at a condominium bought with money funneled from the youth center developers — as he prepares to go to prison.

“Undoubtedly, there will be people who will walk out of the theater thinking maybe they weren’t really guilty,” Marsha Levick, chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, said last week. “They’re guilty of many things. Some of that is nuanced.”

The film explores why other adult stakeholders — including prosecutors, public defenders, school officials and probation officers — stayed silent. The filmmaker sees it as part of a larger problem. “As a society, as soon as someone’s accused of something, we say they’re guilty,” May said.

The film may underplay the teens’ family, school or emotional problems as it mines the perils of juvenile placement. But it makes clear that incarceration is rarely an effective cure.

“Pushing kids into the juvenile system will never produce better outcomes than keeping them in their schools and in their communities and with their families,” said Levick.

 

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  • 2 years later...
Do you support the Private Prison Complex, or companies that do?
 
 
 
 
 

Many readers have asked how a corporation can be identified as participating in the use of inmate labor. Actually there are three "categories" of those involved in prison labor and prison industry operations:

  1. corporations, businesses and companies that use direct inmate labor for manufacturing and service jobs,
  1. corporations, businesses and companies that contract with other companies to purchase products or services made by inmate labor (such as McDonalds), and,
  1. individuals, corporations, organizations and investment companies that support the use of prison labor or enable prison industry operations by contributing financial support to those directly involved in using inmates for labor or invest in or support private prison corporations.

To demonstrate how difficult involvement in prison industries and the use of inmate labor is to identify, we'll begin with an investment firm involved in many of our 401(k) and retirement accounts.

Fidelity Investments (Fidelity). This "financial investment" corporation is involved in holding the retirement and 401(k) accounts of millions of Americans. Many of the largest companies in our country offer Fidelity Investments as the sole source of retirement investing for their employees.

Fidelity was previously identified as a funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in an earlir Insourcing blog. ALEC is deeply invested in supporting Corrections Corporation of American (CCA) and Geo Group (Geo) - that are both corporate members of ALEC. ALEC has willingly accepted responsibility for enactment of laws authorizing and increasing the use of inmates in manufacturing of products as well as the housing of those inmates by private corporations such as CCA and Geo.

Unfortunately if your retirement savings, 401(K) or other investments are held by Fidelity, chances are some of your money is invested by Fidelity in either the use of prison labor or in other operations related to the prison industrial complex (PIC).

I purposely mentioned McDonald's in the intro because though they are not "directly" using inmate labor in their food service operations, they are dependent upon the use of inmate labor to reduce costs associated with those operations. The way they do this is by contracting to purchase their uniforms and some of the plastic utensils provided to customers from a company using inmate labor to make those uniforms and utensils. The uniforms are made by Oregon Inmates. Wendy's has also been identified as relying upon prison labor to reduce their cost of operations - and they fund ALEC.

Two other U.S. companies relying upon prison labor for products sold in their stores are K-Mart and J.C. Penny. Both sell Jeans made by inmates in Tennessee prisons. The same prison in Tennessee provides labor for Eddie Bauer's wooden rocking horses. There are other products we would not associate with prison made products: dentures, partials, eye glasses, processed foods such as beef, chicken and pork patties sold to and served in our schools, grocery stores and hospitals. I don't know about you but putting dentures made in prison in my mouth just somehow causes me concern...just as buying a box of breaded chicken patties and fixing them for my family does.

What about services such as Insurance? Banking? Utilities - gas, oil, electricity? Prescription drugs? Are all of these services or commodities tied to prison labor and the PIC? Unfortunately, yes. Many insurance companies are tied to ALEC...as are corporations involving utilities provided to you in your city or town. To name jut a few brand names you'll recognize that are invested in prison labor or PIC through ALEC are:

BANKS: American General Financial Group, American Express Company, Bank of America, Community Financial Services Corporation, Credit Card Coalition, Credit Union National Association, Inc., Fidelity Inestments, Harris Trust & Savings Bank, Household International, LaSalle National Bank, J.P. Morgan & Company, Non-Bank Funds Transmitters Group

ENERGY PRODUCERS/OIL: American Petroleum Institute, Amoco Corporation, ARCO, BP America, Inc., Caltex Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil Corporation, Mobil Oil Corporation, Phillips Petroleum Company.

ENERGY PRODUCERS/UTILITIES: American Electric Power Association, American Gas Association, Center for Energy and Economic Development, Commonwealth Edison Company, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., Edison Electric Institute, Independent Power Producers of New York, Koch Industries, Inc., Mid-American Energy Company, Natural Gas Supply Association, PG&E Corporation/PG&E National Energy Group, U.S. Generating Company.

INSURANCE: Alliance of American Insurers, Allstate Insurance Company, American Council of Life Insurance, American Insurance Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Corporation, Coalition for Asbestos Justice, (This organization was formed in October 2000 to explore new judicial approaches to asbestos litigation." Its members include ACE-USA, Chubb & Son, CNA service mark companies, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Kemper Insurance Companies, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, and St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Counsel to the coalition is Victor E. Schwartz of the law firm of Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C., a longtime ALEC ally.)
Fortis Health, GEICO, Golden Rule Insurance Company, Guarantee Trust Life Insurance, MEGA Life and Health Insurance Company, National Association of Independent Insurers, Nationwide Insurance/National Financial, State Farm Insurance Companies, Wausau Insurance Companies, Zurich Insurance.

PHARMACEUTICALS: Abbott Laboratories, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Bayer Corporation, Eli Lilly & Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Inc., Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc., Merck & Company, Inc., Pfizer, Inc., Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America (PhRMA), Pharmacia Corporation, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Inc., Schering-Plough Corporation, Smith, Kline & French, WYETH, a division of American Home Products Corporation.

MANUFACTURING:American Plastics Council, Archer Daniels Midland Corporation, AutoZone, Inc. (aftermarket automotive parts), Cargill, Inc., Caterpillar, Inc., Chlorine Chemistry Council, Deere & Company, Fruit of the Loom, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Inland Steel Industries, Inc., International Game Technology, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Keystone Automotive Industries, Motorola, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee Corporation.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: AT&T, Ameritech, BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., GTE Corporation, MCI, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, SBC Communications, Inc., Sprint, UST Public Affairs, Inc., Verizon Communications, Inc.

TRANSPORTATION: Air Transport Association of America, American Trucking Association, The Boeing Company, United Airlines, United Parcel Service (UPS).

OTHER U.S. COMPANIES: Amway Corporation, Cabot Sedgewick, Cendant Corporation, Corrections Corporation of America, Dresser Industries, Federated Department Stores, International Gold Corporation, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Microsoft Corporation, Newmont Mining Corporation, Quaker Oats, Sears, Roebuck & Company, Service Corporation International, Taxpayers Network, Inc., Turner Construction, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

ORGANIZATIONS/ASSOCIATIONS: Adolph Coors Foundation, Ameritech Foundation, Bell & Howell Foundation, Carthage Foundation, Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, ELW Foundation, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Heartland Institute of Chicago, The Heritage Foundation, Iowans for Tax Relief, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, National Pork Producers Association, National Rifle Association, Olin Foundation, Roe Foundation, Scaiffe Foundation, Shell Oil Company Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Steel Recycling Institute, Tax Education Support Organization, Texas Educational Foundation, UPS Foundation.

As the foregoing illustrates, many U.S. companies and corporations not only fund ALEC's activities regarding prison labor and PIC, they have foundations that also contribute handsomely to ALEC. Many are represented upon ALEC"s Private Enterprise Board.

Commodities, services and various products sold to U.S. consumers provide profits to these companies/corporations that are used to further the goals of ALEC. They sell us our vehicles, Chrysler, Ford, GM...sell us the fuel to power those vehicles, insurance to cover our cars and trucks. Some of our homes are mortgaged through banks and mortgage companies affiliated with ALEC. Our homes are insured by carriers supporting the use of inmate labor. Our phones are provided by those who are also involved and our medications also fund these same ALEC activities. Even the fast food places we depend upon are part of the overall PIC operation - McDonalds and Wendy's.

Reservations we make for American Airlines and the likes of AVIS rent-a-car are taken by inmates. More and more call centers are coming on line every day manned by inmates in both state and federal prison operations. Each position taken by an inmate, used to belong to private sector workers who are now unemployed.

Another industry I've briefly touched upon needs to be discussed here. That is the agriculture industry. One side effect of immigration laws being enacted in the Western states is the reduction of migrant workers in those states that have passed tougher immigration policies. Not one to miss such an opportunity, prison industries are vying to fill the voids created by these laws.

Colorado has been one of those states hardest hit because of new laws similar to that of SB 1070. In an effort of providing labor to the farmers in that state, the legislature has partnered with the state DOC to implement a new program allowing for the use of inmates on private farms.

"
To meet the needs of the capitalist farmers, the state legislature has partnered with the Colorado Department of Corrections to launch a pilot program this month that will contract with more than a dozen large farms to provide prisoners who will work in the fields. More than 100 prisoners will go to farms near Pueblo, Colo., to start the program in the coming weeks.

Prisoners will earn a miserable 60 cents a day. The prisoners will be watched by prison guards, who will be paid handsomely by the farmers. The practice is a modern form of slavery.

The corporate farm owners and capitalist politicians are defending the program. They claim that business needs to be "protected" for the sake of capitalist production in the agricultural sector.
"

There were many indicators that this was on the horizon over three years ago, when articlesbegan to appear about several states switching from migrant farm workers to inmates:

"
As states increasingly crack down on hiring undocumented workers, western farmers are looking at inmates to harvest their fields. Colorado started sending female inmates to harvest onions, corn, and melons this summer. Iowa is considering a similar program. In Arizona, inmates have been working for private agriculture businesses for almost 20 years. But with legislation signed this summer that would fine employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, more farmers are turning to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) for help.
"

It isn't surprising that agricultural and farming needs would be pointed in this direction by state legislators...where ALEC's efforts of eliminating "illegal" aliens from agribusiness work coincided with their SB 1070 and earlier state legislative efforts. They realized the impact the laws would have upon immigrant workers and that a labor force would be necessary to take the place of immigrants picked up or scared off by laws like SB 1070. CCA, Geo and state prison industry operators were informed of the expected future labor needs of U.S. farmers and began to gear up in 2007 when ALEC successfully proposed and was able to enact one of the first restrictive immigration laws in Colorado. I believe ALEC projected the impact on farming, predicted the labor need and advised prison industries to be prepared to put inmates out in agriculture work on short notice. As soon as the Colorado law went into effect, prison industries had inmates picked, vetted and with the proper custody level ready to step into the shoes of the missing migrant workers.

All in all a very effective business plan put into place by ALEC and their members - eliminate an entire industry workforce and replace it with a workforce supplied by their members at a wage scale of less than $1.00 per hour. At the same time salaries of the prison staff guarding the workers is paid for by the farmers. Talk about a win-win-win business plan.

Prison labor had been used in Arizona for more than two decades prior to SB 1070. However the enactment of that law made the need for inmate labor to treble - along with profits from that labor.

Other occupations are being impacted by privatization of prison related healthcare. Many doctors are now choosing to work in prison rather than private practice. Obviously this switch lowers the number of doctors available in the private sector. One reason for this change in direction by physicians is retirement benefits and free malpractice insurance offered by prison healthcare corporations, such as PHS.

If more information is needed to clarify the financial impact of continuing incarceration upon us as a society take a brief look at Washington State's latest efforts to address the state deficit. The below cuts are necessary to reduce the budget by $600 million. A substantial need for such reductions was created because of the state's continued reliance upon incarcerating more and more citizens, reducing private sector jobs through the use of prison labor by large WA. corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft.

"
Among the cuts approved by legislators: nearly $50 million from the Department of Corrections, including the closure of a prison facility; $50 million from K-12 education, including funding intended to keep class sizes small; $51 million from higher education, including at several of the state's flagship universities; nearly $30 million from a state-subsidized health insurance program for the poor; and the elimination of non-emergency dental care for poor adults.
"

What a trade off, huh? More cuts to education and social programs that benefit the poor while they pay out millions to prison industries and private prison operators - and give tax breaks to Boeing and Microsoft. Washington citizens are getting the shaft - especially their students and the poorest among them.

While Washington state is making terrible cuts to the budget, elsewhere prison workers and their supporters are successfully keeping unnecessary prisons open to keep prison staffers from losing their employment. An action that keeps taxpayers funding their salaries - needlessly.

"
ETOWAH COUNTY, Alabama -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have agreed Thursday to delay removal of more than 300 inmates from Etowah County's  detention center until at least the spring, the Gadsden Times reports.

ICE officials had notified the county Saturday that they would be removing the inmates from the Etowah County jail, which is the only facility in Alabama with a contract to house ICE inmates.

On Thursday, after intercession by the county's congressional delegation, ICE agreed to keep inmates at the facility and use Etowah County's prisoner transportation services until March 31, 2011, according to the Gadsden Times, which cites a news release from Sheriff Todd Entrekin.

The decision stops what would have been a substantial economic loss for the jail and could have resulted in the loss of some 49 jobs."

While this fight to keep jobs and inmates in AL. is fought, another fight results in the loss of a successful privately operated reentry program for ex-offenders in Virginia. The state has decided to "re-vamp" its reentry efforts and closed this and 12 other successful programs. Even in instances where volunteers and organizers step-up to address recidivism, the state steps-in and thwarts their efforts. It's almost like there are efforts going on at the state levels to keep incarceration and recidivism rates up.

Our country is being turned into a nation of prisoners and those who pay for their incarceration costs - period. Everything else is being cut to keep the PIC in place and profitable. Medicare and Social Security are next in line in the next U.S. Congress. Don't you find it odd that of all the rhetoric about our failing economy, the cuts to social and community programs, unemployment and unemployment compensation arguments - none of our lawmakers are openly voicing calls for any reduction in imprisonment? I mean there have been hundreds of articles identifying incarceration costs as being responsible for necessary cuts in funding for education and other necessary programs...but no one wants to go on the record as supporting a stop to mass incarcerations? How is it that our elected officials continue to cut more and more out of annual budgets to pay for incarceration and make no effort of reducing the need for that incarceration? I believe it is because they're paid handsomely to avoid any effort of reforming laws or reducing incarceration. It is simply too profitable to allow us to stop sending men, women and our children to jail and prisons.

This is exemplified by a recent article on Louisiana's practice of housing state prisoners in local Parish jails:

Legislators wonder why the budget for the Department of Corrections is so large,” said one state employee who is familiar with the department. “As long as they keep trying to criminalize everything they find personally offensive in the name of law and order for the benefit of the folks back home, the budget is going to keep growing.

”Each legislative session, dozens of bills are introduced by Louisiana lawmakers to either create new criminal statutes or to increase penalties for existing laws. Only rarely does a bill attempt to reduce penalties for crimes. In the 2010 regular session alone, for example, 68 of 93 bills addressing criminal procedure and crime, called for jail time for new crimes or longer sentences for existing laws. Those included crimes ranging from “unlawfully wearing clothing which exposes undergarments or certain body parts” to cyberbullying, and terrorist acts.

"Local sheriffs relish the opportunity to house state prison inmates because it infuses needed cash into the local coffers. One state official said the actual cost to sheriffs to house the state prisoners is only a fraction of the $24.39 daily income per prisoner. “It’s a big bonus for the sheriffs,” he said.
"

Right now prisoners in Georgia are striking due to being used as slave labor by that state's prison industries. Such strikes are unheard of and one reason is the huge amount of "get-back" available to the prison staff and their willingness to use physical means to force compliance. My heart goes out to these men, as I've been there and know how dire their circumstances must be to cause such a dangerous mission from behind bars. Many are trying to provide assistance to them through phone and email communications with prison authorities, but so far the prisons involved (6) remain on indefinite lockdowns with reports of retaliation at each facility being reported via cell phone calls from the inmates. There has been limited media coverage of this historical strike (and no mainstream media attention) - again, it is not in their best interests to publicize this action to the public, for fear of creating a discussion on the merits of using inmate labor in a "slavery like" manner - though from reports, thousands of inmates are participating in the strike. These men represent those who are now performing the work previously performed by Georgia private sector workers, and doing it for pennies on the dollar.

As shown by the above information, every facet of our lives are now touched in some way by prison privatization, prison healthcare, feeding of prisoners or by working prisoners in the PIC. This puts their products in our homes, on our grocer shelves, in our produce consumption and reduces available private sector jobs - including positions for physicians. Sadly we must realize that all of this is financed with our tax dollars that are quickly converted to "profits" once received into the coffers of corporations participating in the PIC.

Many comments have been made to my Insourcing Series saying we should identify those involved and boycott their products and services. As this segment demonstrates, it is nearly impossible to identify each corporation, group, organization or individuals involved in PIC and prison industries. Their products are so vast and diverse, each of our homes now have one or more of those products in use. Even picking up the phone and calling for technical assistance with products, making a reservation or inquiring about services may put us in touch with an inmate on the other end of the phone.

 

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/12/14/928611/-  bob sloan

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  Million Shares Club: 36 Major Private Prison Investors

There are 36 U.S.-based major financial investors that own over one million shares of CCA and GEO combined. The following companies each own over 1 million shares of CCA and GEO, and collectively own over two-thirds of CCA and GEO:

Ø American Century Companies Inc.

Ø Ameriprise Financial Inc.

Ø Balestra Capital LTD.

Ø Bank Of America Corp.

Ø Bank Of New York Mellon Corp.

Ø Barclays Global Investors

Ø Blackrock Fund Advisors

Ø Carlson Capital LP

Ø Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn LLC

Ø Dimensional Fund Advisors LP

Ø Eagle Asset Management Inc.

Ø Epoch Investment Partners, Inc.

Ø FMR LLC

Ø Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Ø Hamlin Capital Management, LLC

Ø ING Investment Management, LLC & Co.

Ø Invesco LTD.

Ø Jennison Associates LLC

Ø JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Ø Keeley Asset Management Corp.

Ø Lazard Asset Management LLC

Ø London Co. Of Virginia

Ø Makaira Partners LLC

Ø Managed Account Advisors LLC

Ø Morgan Stanley

Ø Neuberger Berman Group LLC

Ø New South Capital Management INC

Ø Northern Trust Corp

Ø Principal Financial Group Inc

Ø Renaissance Technologies LLC

Ø River Road Asset Management, LLC

Ø Scopia Capital Management LLC

Ø State Street Corp

Ø Suntrust Banks INC

Ø Vanguard Group INC

Ø Wells Fargo & Company

Without the financial support of major investors like Vanguard and Wells Fargo, CCA and GEO alone would not be strong enough to successfully lobby for policies that increase the federal government’s demand for private prisons. With these powerful allies, however, they have been able to sway public policy in favor of more severe “tough on crime” laws and the increasing criminalization of immigrants.

The financial services industry now makes up a third of the US economy, and its members collectively own over two-thirds of CCA and GEO Group. It is the most powerful lobbying force in both Washington DC and in state governments. To address the root causes of anti-immigrant and other racist legislation, it is imperative that we expose and sever the financial ties that allow shareholders to cash in on the incarceration of immigrants and people of color.

Divestment from these financial services companies because they support CCA and GEO will force these companies to change their investment practices if they want to continue making a profit. With enough public pressure, these 36 major investors will divest or create portfolio screens shielding their investments from making their way to CCA and GEO. Once deprived of the financial support of their investors, CCA and GEO will lose capital and with it, their ability to lobby for stricter punishments, anti-immigration laws, and more contracts.

 

https://prisondivest.com/2014/06/12/million-shares-club-36-major-private-prison-investors/

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University of California Has Millions Invested in Private Prisons
 

prison-doc-thumb.jpg

http://afrikanblackcoalition.org/2015/11/30/university-of-california-has-millions-invested-in-private-prisons/
November 30, 2015

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA HAS MILLIONS INVESTED IN PRIVATE PRISONS

UPDATE: As of December 31st, the University of California will no longer own any shares in private prison corporations!

The Afrikan Black Coalition has confirmed with the University of California’s Chief Investment Officer that the University of California (“UC”) has investments in private prison corporations of $25 million. This $25 million is split between both Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”), “America’s Leader in Partnership Corrections” and The Geo Group, “the world’s leading provider of correctional and detention management,” according to their websites. The Afrikan Black Coalition has also confirmed that the UC system has a startling $425 million invested in Wells Fargo, one of the largest financiers of private prisons.

So what does this mean, exactly? Well on a purely technical level, the UC system is an indirect investor in private prisons through mutual funds–managed by outside  investment bankers–to the tune of $25,000,000. In plain English, this means that the UC System is helping to fund the prison industrial complex’s mission of prioritizing profit over people; the UC has blood on their hands. Private prison corporations exist to build centers of white supremacist dehumanization, turning Black, brown, and immigrant bodies into a profit under the guise of rehabilitation. This profit is the result of anti-Black overcriminalization in the streets, inhumane conditions within the private prison themselves, and a legacy of legal and political disenfranchisement after release. In 2010 there were 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. and we must ask: why is the state’s leading system of higher education funding such an immoral system? Why is the UC actively fueling the racist criminal justice system while publicly aiming for more “diversity” within their own campuses? Any contribution to the for-profit private prison industry is a direct and unethical approval in further  dehumanizing Black, brown, and immigrant people for capitalistic gains. Afrikan Black Coalition Political Director Yoel Haile writes:

“It is an ethical embarrassment and a clear disregard for Black and immigrant lives for the UC to be investing tens and hundreds millions of dollars in private prisons and their financiers. In the age of mass incarceration and Black Lives Matter, the UC should be leading the fight for social justice and ethical investing as opposed to bankrolling the inhuman mass incarceration regime that has gripped America.”

Not only is it ethically embarrassing for a publicly funded and world renowned university system to contribute to such a system, it is downright disgusting. For comparison, let us look at Columbia University’s recent divestment decision. According to MotherJones.com, Columbia University owned roughly $10,000,000 in shares of G4S and CCA in 2013. Between student activism and public pressure, Columbia University has since committed to divesting that $10 million sum from the private prison industry. The private prison industry has not lost the support of the UC system, however, and this is not something that can be ignored any longer. The University of California holds 2.5 times the amount of shares that Columbia once held. While Columbia can boast of their divestment, the UC System has hidden their very troubling investments in private for-profit prisons. This $25 million investment is not a passive agreement, but an actively shameful agreement that incarcerated Black lives do not indeed matter.

Even more atrocious is the UC system’s complicitly in the capitalistic prison industrial complex through their $425 million investment in Wells Fargo. With ten campuses all over the state of California, the UC system is responsible for the education of hundreds of thousands of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. ABC Field Organizer Kamilah Moore writes, “the goals of the private prison industry, which are to profit from the incarceration, labor, and rehabilitative treatment of black and immigrant lives, and the UC’s mission, which is to teaching, research, and public service, are fundamentally incompatible.” What does it mean for UC System to so generously invest in the leading financier of private prisons while publicly touting a commitment to public service? This $425 million spells out hypocrisy at the systemic level of the UC. Add in the very real school-to-prison pipeline that the UC system should work against and hope to break, and the UC’s mission becomes empty rhetoric for public titillation. The message is clear: the bodies of the Black, brown, and immigrant folks who pack these private prisons are disposable tools of labor and the UC underwrites this message with their financial investment in its maintenance. Those who pay a thief to steal something are just as responsible as the thief himself for whatever is stolen by the thief, and should be dealt with as such.

We must demand more, even from the seemingly faceless UC System. It is true that a soulless institution cannot be moved by the value of human life, the unjust criminalization of Black, brown, and immigrant bodies, or even large sums of blood money. And whatever rate of return comes from private prison investments is indeed blood money. So we must instead look to the actual human beings who run the UC System and confront these atrocities head on. The UC Regents, President Napolitano, and the Chief Investment Officer must be held accountable for investing our public dollars into a criminal system that has ruthlessly targeted Black and immigrant people for the sole purpose of making profit. Racism is not just individual acts of discrimination or the 250+ lives stolen by the police in 2015, but systemic and structural economic slavery that is being carried out through mass incarceration. By investing in CCA, The Geo Group, and Wells Fargo Bank, the University of California is actively supporting a legacy of slave patrols turned police officers, a historical emphasis on profit margins at the expense of human beings, and the continued mass criminalization of Black existence.

 

 

"If our interventions cause more harm than good, the interventions are not moral regardless of the loftiness of our intentions"

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resilience-bullying/201008/principle-number-one-the-road-hell-is-paved-good-intentions

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There is hope!

 

Color of change

 

Corporations Divest Nearly $60 Million From Private Prison Industry
ms_walnutgrove-630.jpg

Mississippi's privately-owned Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which one federal judge called "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts." Richard Ross/Juvenile-in-Justice

Three corporations announced their divestment from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies in the United States, late last week.

Scopia Capital Management, DSM North America, and Amica Mutual Insurance pulled nearly $60 million in investments from CCA and GEO Group in the final quarter of 2013, marking full divestment for DSM and Amica and a 27 percent decrease in shares for Scopia. (Scopia has decreased its private prison stock by 59 percent since December 2012.) Their announcements mark the first round of success for civil rights nonprofit Color of Change, which has been pushing over 150 companies to divest from for-profit incarceration companies since last year. Color of Change is one of 16 organizations working towards these divestment goals as part of the National Prison Divestment Campaign.

"Companies that continue to stay with their investments in CCA and GEO Group are making a real decision about where they want their money and the ethical obligations they have to the greater society," Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson told Mother Jones. Human rights advocates strongly oppose private prisons, alleging that they prioritize profit over rehabilitation and help fuel mass incarceration. Privately owned prisons have also been shown to have higher levels of violence and recidivism.

The founders of asset management company Scopia Capital, who donate to Democratic politicians like Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and have ties to other progressive organizations, have drawn criticism in the past for their company's stake in GEO Group. In its 2013 end-of-year filing, Scopia reported owning 4,320,339 shares of GEO Group, down from 10,621,223 shares at the end of 2012. According to Color of Change, the company has committed to a full divestment of GEO Group holdings, and is on pace to reach this target within the coming year.

DSM, a Netherlands-based chemical company, dropped all 73,000 of its pension fund's shares in CCA and GEO Group in the final quarter of last year. DSM North America President Hugh Welsh stated in a Color of Change press release:

"In accordance with the principles of the UN Global Compact, with respect to the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights, the pension fund has divested from the for-profit prison industry. Investment in private prisons and support for the industry is financially unsound, and divestment was the right thing to do for our clients, shareholders, and the country as a whole."

Of course, $60 million is small change for CCA and GEO Group, which reported revenues of $1.7 and $1.5 billion respectively in 2013. But Robinson says these divestments are just the first step in his organization's plan to hold investors accountable. If so, Color of Change has a long way to go: CCA has 309 institutional holders and GEO Group has 225. Vanguard alone owns about 14 percent of each company.

Robinson says investment companies often tell Color of Change their "hands are tied" when it comes to divesting from private prison companies. He admits that "the untangling of these resources is hard," but points to Scopia, Amica, and DSM as proof that divestment is possible.

He says Color of Change's disinvestment campaign is inspired by similar movements targeting fossil fuels and, previously, apartheid in South Africa.

While asking shareholders to face the moral implications of their investments, Color of Change also warns them that, ethical or not, the industry may not remain financially viable: "If the industry isn't growing, then that's going to be hard on the investor. He tells them, "This is not a business you should be in. These type of investments are going to become more and more shaky."

Robinson isn't the only activist predicting a decline in for-profit incarceration. Last summer, Anonymous released a report calling CCA stock a "strong sell" because "in purely financial terms, for-profit incarceration is becoming an increasingly unviable business model. Intuitively, it should be understood that current US incarceration rates are unsustainable." But private prison companies don't seem worried yet—the industry grew 1664% from 1990 to 2009 and 37 percent from 2002 to 2009. Some financial analysts are also confident in the industry's continued success: Wall St. Cheat Sheet recommends buying private prison stock, as do the the Wall Street Journal's "Research and Ratings" pages for both CCA and GEO Group. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/investment-corporations-divest-60-million-private-prison-cca-geo-group

Edited by grassmatch
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