According to Sentenceproject.org, in 2016 there were 128,063 people incarcerated in private prisons in the United States. This totals up to 8.5% of the total federal and state prison population in the nation. Over the last two decades, this number has increased over 50% and most of those people are Black and Brown. It is not just a form of penal retribution, but is come up for private industry. Folk are caking out from this legalized for of slavery.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that something sounds fishy. After the Obama administration ended and the Trump reign came into the power, the numbers in private prisons have hit the roof. But the state of New York has stepped up and taken a stand to stop corporate exploitation done in these private institutions of “reform.”
According to Forbes, there are three steps that they have made that revolutionizes how politicians have looked and prison industrial complex, one system that has been broken since the birth of the nation.
The first action is to prohibit private prisons from operating within the state. Since 2007, Assembly member Ortiz and State Senator Nozzolio introduced a bill entitled A 4484-B / S4118 that made New York a unicorn in this space. Along with two other states, The Empire State does not allow the operation of private prisons within the state prison systems- thou some contracts are still allotted to some companies. The bill states the following: “in the effort forced upon state and local governments to cut operating costs, some are turning to the privatization of prisons. Inevitably, hungry, bottom line adventurers appear ready to take the public money.”
The second action is to divest state pension funds from CoreCivic and GEO Group, the largest private prison companies in the nation. Last year New York State, under the supervision of state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the push of Harlem senator, Brian Benjamin, pulled $10 million from the aforementioned companies for having these private prisons.
The third action happened a few weeks ago. The State Senate passed Bill S5433. This bill prohibits NY State-chartered banks from “investing in and providing financing to private prisons.”
Senator Benjamin noted in introducing the bill, in front of a Bank of America branch, “ The goal is to starve private prisons of capital. My constituents do not put their hard-earned savings in a bank like the one we are standing in front of today expecting that those funds will be used to finance mass incarceration. Whether through organizing and community pressure, or tools like the bill I am announcing here today, we can and we must bring an end to private prisons.”
Everyone is banking on this Governor Cuomo to make this bill a law. By doing so, he would be the first governor to make such a strong statement against the private prison industry.
NYS pols ain’t playing. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer blasted Bank of America:
“Private prisons built a billion dollar business by capitalizing on human suffering – and Bank of America is complicit. The industry is not just inhumane, it’s a huge risk financially. That’s why we in New York City took a stand and became the first public pension fund in the country to divest from the abhorrent industry. We’ve shown that divesting from private prisons is the right and smart thing to do. Bank of America should follow our lead – now.”
Corporations and lobbyists invested in these prisons are not going down without a fight… just like southern states didn’t go down without a fight with slavery.
Private prison lobbyists are sure to work to try and hinder this bill with all their might. But Senator Benjamin is just as committed to working for the success of this potential law, “We sometimes forget that local government can truly make a difference. I hope that our work in New York to support a transition to a justice system focused on serving people, not making profits, inspires other states to take action — whether through divestment, or by similarly limiting bank financing.”