Chicago Teachers to Divest Private Prisons, Immigration Detention Centers

The fund is also barred from making any future investments in these industries.

The $10.8 billion Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund Board of Trustees voted Friday to sell stocks in private prisons and immigrant detention centers worth more than $500,000.

The board also voted against any future investments in such businesses. The fund’s investment managers must unload these holdings as soon as “reasonably practical,” according to a statement.

Jay C. Rehak, the president of the CTPF Board of Trustees, said the prisons and detainment centers “deliberately outsource public services and foster unsafe working and living conditions.” The two companies targeted, CoreCivic (the teachers’ fund has 7,900 shares) and Geo Group (a heftier 13,825), house both domestic prisoners and immigrants.

The teachers’ pension plan has $548,000 invested in these companies, and indicated the money would be re-allocated to other stocks or bonds.

“We know these institutions disproportionately incarcerate people of color and those who live below the poverty line, house immigrant children and perpetuate the separation of immigrant families,” Rehak said. Further, he added, they “put at risk unprotected, low-wage employees, while lacking fiscal and operational transparency.”

This comes at a time where public pension funds are beginning to remove themselves from correctional facilities. Last year, the $194 billion New York City Pension Funds became the first to divest completely from private prisons, with the rest of the state following the move last month. The $228 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) is also currently evaluating its penitentiary holdings.

Public pensions funds “represent diverse memberships and the amount of assets can be used as leverage” against the likes of Core Civic and Geo, said Angela Miller May, Chicago Teachers’ chief investment officer.

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