NY becomes first state to eliminate private prison stock holdings, dealing a major blow to companies set to benefit directly from Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy
New York, NY (July 13th, 2018)—Today, Make the Road New York (MRNY) and Enlace hailed New York State Comptroller DiNapoli’s decision to sell New York State pension funds’ stock holdings in private prison and immigrant detention companies. As Donald Trump ramps up his efforts to put immigrants and people of color in cages, his administration relies heavily on private prison and immigrant detention companies to build and maintain the infrastructure of his deportation machine. Comptroller DiNapoli’s decision to sell the State’s holdings sends the clear message that New York State will not be complicit in the separation of families and the caging of community members. With today’s action, New York becomes the first state in the nation to eliminate its stock holdings in private prison companies.
Cindy Martinez, organizer at Enlace, convener of the National Prison Divestment Campaign & Freedom Cities, said, “This is a big and necessary step forward for New York State to sell its pensions’ holdings in inhumane private prison companies that criminalize and incarcerate our communities in order to make a profit. New York State is withdrawing itself from an industry that cages children and thrives off the separation of our families, joining cities and universities that have together divested billions from private prisons. We hope this signals a deepening commitment from New York State to work towards ending the systems that disappear immigrant, black and brown communities.”
A recent data brief by MRNY and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) found that full implementation of “zero tolerance” at the border would expand the population held in private immigrant detention by 290 – 580% within two years.
The Trump administration’s “law and order” policies and decision to reverse President Obama’s phasing out of private prison companies also exacerbate the mass incarceration of people of color, while breathing new life into companies like CoreCivic and Geo. These companies have a horrific history of human rights abuses, including violence, sexual assault, and death. In the past two fiscal years alone, 22 people have died in ICE custody, most of them in private facilities.
Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said, “Comptroller DiNapoli’s decision to sell New York’s stocks in these abominable private companies marks a major victory for our community. As Trump ruthlessly seeks to criminalize immigrants and people of color and put us in cages, his administration relies on the morally bankrupt private prison industry to hold our communities captive. With the Comptroller’s bold action today, he is ensuring that New York stands up to this grotesque industry. As part of our Backers of Hate campaign, we will continue to work tirelessly to disrupt all sources of funding to this toxic sector of our economy–including backers of hate like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, who bankroll CoreCivic and the Geo Group, while claiming to support immigrants and communities of color.”
Melissa Nunez, member of Make the Road New York and former detainee at a CoreCivic facility, said, “As a trans woman who was held in a CoreCivic detention center for six months, I experienced first-hand the physical and mental pain that people suffer when they are held in such places. I was sexually assaulted during my time in that facility. The conditions were so bad that I went on a three-day hunger strike. I commend Comptroller DiNapoli for making this big decision and standing with our community. New York is sending the message that no one should invest in companies that torture, separate and criminalize our community. I urge other states and corporations to follow Comptroller DiNapoli’s lead and stop backing the hateful practices of these companies.”
MRNY and Enlace are partners with several other organizations–including CPD, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), Make the Road New Jersey, Make the Road Pennsylvania, Make the Road Connecticut, and Action NC–in the Backers of Hate (#BackersofHate) campaign, which has taken direct action consistently since 2017 to pressure companies and state and city governments to divest from private prison and immigrant detention companies. Last year, New York City and Philadelphia divested from private prisons. New York State’s announcement shows enormous momentum behind the push to defund the industry that profits from the pain of people of color and immigrants.
Meanwhile, the #BackersofHate effort continues to pressure Wall Street banks, like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, for helping to prop up the private prison industry through extensive financing and investment. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, is the largest financier of private prison companies, and its investment holdings in CoreCivic and Geo have increased 97 times (or 9,600 percent) since Trump’s election. (For more information on these financial ties, and CoreCivic and Geo’s records of violating people’s rights, see the April 2018 “Bankrolling Oppression,” a report authored by MRNY, CPD, NYCC, Enlace, and the Strong Economy for All Coalition.)