May 12, 2011 by tristan savage
Community and labor groups took to the streets today in five major cities to demand divestment of private and public holdings in the private prison industry. The prison industry, especially the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has had a major hand in lobbying for harsher immigrant incarceration policies like Arizona’s SB1070. Back in October, NPR did a special report on the economics of SB1070 and its sponsor Russell Pearce’s connections to CCA throught ALEC, a right-wing club for politicians and corporate lobbyists to design legislation together.
Detentions of immigrants are on pace to cost taxpayers billions of dollars this year. Meanwhile Manhattan-based hedge fund managers and other finance industry magnates like Wells Fargo who have significant investments in the private prison industry rake in the profits, say the Enlace coalition members who announced the plan. The protests occured in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Tucson, Nashville and Miami.
The private prison industry, in league with major investors, is working to increase the criminalization of U.S. communities. Through lobbying efforts, they increase federal penalties and incarcerations. States like Arizona and Georgia also recently passed legislation that accelerates the detention of immigrants.
U.S. incarceration rate: #1 globally
Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, the imprisonment rate is higher than it has ever been in U.S. history. Nevertheless, our criminal justice system is a failure in public safety, and in fairness as well as in cost-effectiveness, according to the ACLU.
“Now they’re conspiring to get states to put more people in jail for longer periods of time, costing tax-payers millions for no justifiable reason which undermines the credibility of our justice system. We can’t let this happen,” said Peter Cervantes-Gautschi of Enlace, an alliance of low-wage labor groups in the U.S. and Mexico.
This group, in partnership with community groups and unions across the US, is calling on all public and private institutions to divest their holdings in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, America’s largest private prison corporations. These groups have benefitted from billions of taxpayer dollars.
Major investors in the private prison industry include Pershing Square Capital Management, Wellington Management Company, Wells Fargo Bank, General Electric and others. The protests coincide with the annual shareholders meeting of CCA in Nashville, TN the site of one of the protests.
To get involved in the long-term movement against criminalization of migrants and other people disproportionately targeted as the private piggybanks of the prison industry, go to Cuéntame.
Note: significant portions of this report were drawn from BorderExplorer’s excellent post at Allvoices.com