Report reveals Wall Street’s scale of involvement in private prison and detention industry, highlights costs to Black, Brown and immigrant communities
New York, NY — A new report shows the vital role that three major Wall Street corporations, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and BlackRock, play in maintaining and expanding the lucrative private prison and immigrant detention industry – and how they’re poised to make millions from the further criminalization of communities of color and the expansion of detention under Trump.
The report, by the Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Enlace International, and the Strong Economy for All Coalition, reveals the extent to which Wall Street’s biggest lenders are propping up the private prison and immigrant detention industry – already a $5 billion enterprise.
“Our cities can take powerful steps to oppose incarceration by divesting from these banks and reinvesting in our community. That is the first step towards building the Freedom Cities that our communities need to thrive and be safe,” said Amanda Aguilar-Shank, Deputy Director of Enlace International.
“The US has the highest rate of incarnation of the industrialized world, and Wall Street companies have enabled and profited from the criminalization of communities of color. This report demands better and asks that Wall Street companies put people over profit and ensure they are not contributing to an industry that hurts so many communities,” said Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “As the Trump administration continues to ramp up its attacks on communities of color, we need to do everything possible to put the brakes on the administration’s agenda of detention and deportation.”
Private prison giants like GEO Group and CoreCivic rely heavily on debt financing from Wall Street giants. In fact, the report reveals, at the end of 2017, nine of every ten dollars CoreCivic had on hand were borrowed; for GEO Group, it was nineteen of every twenty dollars. In exchange for funding private prisons, Wall Street banks earn hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and fees. In 2017 alone, the report calculates that lenders earned $217.5 million in interest expense – or $1,733 in general interest payments for each year people spent behind private prison bars.
The report details how lenders are positioned to benefit from an even greater financial windfall as a result of Trump’s anti-immigrant, pro-incarceration agenda. The number of shares of JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, and Wells Fargo, for example, have collectively increased 28.3 times since Trump’s election.
The findings are particularly startling given the three companies featured have publicly criticized Trump’s immigration policies and committed to standing with Dreamers and immigrants — while simultaneously contributing to the expansion of an industry that disproportionately targets Black, Brown and immigrant communities.
“CoreCivic isn’t the only one responsible for the fact that, while in detention, I got paid $1 for each day I worked and then had to spend $2 per minute for every phone call to my family. And it’s not just CoreCivic that was responsible for failing to allow me to see a doctor when I was sick. Their financial backers must take responsibility for the abusive practices their money enables. We will continue to expose the hypocrisy of companies like JPMorgan Chase until their actions match their words,” said Jonathan Cortés, a Make the Road New York member who spent seven weeks in a CoreCivic detention facility.
The report release is part of the Corporate Backers of Hate campaign, which has targeted financial institutions and other major private companies that stand to benefit from Trump’s agenda. Last year, after a demonstration at JP Morgan Chase’s annual shareholder meeting, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon pledged to take a second look at the bank’s support for private prisons.
“While publicly criticizing President Trump and his anti-immigrant supporters, Wall Street billionaires keep enriching and empowering private prisons that cage families — all to pad their pockets. Wall Street elites like Jamie Dimon say one thing and do another — they will surely be on the wrong side of history. And they and their public companies will surely be the targets of immense anger and consumer backlash from the millions of Americans who stand with immigrant families,” said Charles Khan, Organizing Director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition.
“In January, we received a call from a mother in South Carolina who called about her son Edder, a DACA recipient, who had been locked in a for-profit detention camp for four months. Edder signed his own deportation papers because the conditions were so violent and inhumane. These are the real consequences of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and Congress’ repeated failure to limit the resources and funds that go to deportation agencies as they hunt immigrants and people of color to wipe us off the face of this country. Now, more than ever, we need to expose these deportation agents and the companies that are shamefully cashing in on white supremacy,” said Cristina Jiménez, Executive Director of United We Dream.
“A few weeks ago, I went to the Hutto Detention Center to visit Laura Monterrosa, a 23-year-old asylum seeker fleeing violence in El Salvador. Now, Laura has spoken up about sexual abuse that she says she has experienced at the hands of a prison guard. No one should be incarcerated in a private, for-profit prison. What will our grandchildren say when they read history books about a young woman, convicted of no crime, being held for months in a prison—a prison run by a private company profiting more for every night they keep her incarcerated?” said Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar and a member of Local Progress, a national network of progressive elected officials.
“I would like to communicate to the Austin community about the problems that are happening in the detention center. The residents do not receive adequate food or the medical care they need, they are forced to take 15-25 pills a day without taking side effects into account. If they don’t do that, they are forced into a medical isolation room, or they are threatened to be transferred to another detention center. For my part, there were times that I didn’t think I was going to make it out of that nightmare because of all the retaliation that I suffered in that place,” said Laura Monterrosa, a 23-year-old asylee from El Salvador who was put in solitary confinement and sexually abused by a guard in a privately-run Texas detention center.
Starting May Day, the campaign will lead a series of rallies and actions around the country to demand financial institutions divest from private prison companies, including an early-morning march from Battery Park to the New York Stock Exchange on May Day with signs, portraits and jumpsuits to symbolize the friends, family members and loved ones hurt by the ramp-up of detention, organized by Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, New York Working Families Party, Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH), Fair Immigration Reform Movement, CREDO Mobile, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) and Reform Immigration for America.
The full report can be found here.