Divesting from Mass Incarceration

Many people are growing keenly aware of the financial, social, and humanitarian drawbacks of supporting the current criminal justice system. There are a number of approaches one can take to initiate change in this sector, beginning with divesting from publicly traded companies that may be part of any common mutual or index fund. The two largest corporations are The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). G4S (G4S:LN), a large private prison corporation with facilities and services in the US, is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. To further expand, we recommend removing companies associated with the prison supply chain, including Aramark (ARMK) and Sysco (SYY).

Columbia University recently divested $60 million in assets from GEO and CCA, a landmark decision initiated by a student-led campaign to promote moral, humanitarian investment within the university’s endowment. Yale made a similar divestment when their hedge fund management company, Farallon Capital Management, sold their shares of CCA stock. It is not just universities that are getting involved. Three investment giants, Scopia, DSM, and Amica, have all promised to divest from publicly traded companies involved with private prison operations, totaling $60 million in stock holdings.

If we continue to let private prisons control and influence our nation’s prison systems, we must admit that any hope for rehabilitation is a myth. The prison industrial complex operating with a bottom line will never benefit from decreased criminal and practical sentencing laws. This immoral stance hurts the taxpayer, the prison system, and the prisoner.

Action Steps

  1. If you or someone you know owns stock or has a 401K, contact your financial adviser to find out if your mutual or index funds hold shares in companies that are part of the private prison industry. They will be able to provide alternative investment options in businesses not affiliated with the prison industry.
  2. Start or join a divestment campaign at your university to divest endowments from the private prison industry.

Written by Jefferson Gennerella