The Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement has voted to withdraw its investments in for-profit prison companies.
The board said it made the decision based on documented instances of human rights violations, and dangerous and unhealthy living conditions in private or contracted prison facilities. It said data shows there were 126,000 inmates housed in approximately 130 private prisons operating in 30 states where federal investigators found far higher rates of security and safety incidents.
Executive Director Francis Bielli said the board voted 6-1 in favor of liquidating the $1.2 million worth of stock it holds in the GEO Group, CoreCivic, and G4S, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. Over the next several months, the funds will be shifted over to other investments.
Florida-based GEO Group specializes in privatized corrections, detention, and mental health treatment, and maintains facilities in North America, the UK, Australia, and South Africa. The company’s US Corrections and Detention division oversees approximately 75,500 beds in 70 correctional and detention facilities, and provides services for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the US Marshals Service, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as eight state correctional clients and various county and city jurisdictions.
Nashville-based CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, owns and manages private prisons and detention centers, as well as operates prisons on a concession basis. It claims to be the fifth-largest corrections system in the US, and has prisons, jails, detention centers, and residential re-entry centers in 20 states.
Meanwhile, UK-based G4S has faced several allegations in recent years for its “shoddy service” in prisons, detention centers, and at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.
According to a 2016 study by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, “contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable [Federal Bureau of Prisons] institutions.” It said that as of the end of 2015, contract prisons housed approximately 22,660 federal inmates, or about 12% Bureau of Prisons’ total inmate population at the time. It also said that contract prisons had higher rates of assaults, both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff.
“This decision is about doing what is right and just,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. “I am proud that the board has taken this tangible step to ensure that the city will no longer invest its pension dollars into an industry with an exhaustive track record of civil rights abuses.”