In June, journalist Shane Bauer posted a horrifying account of his four months working at a private prison operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CXW), adding to the many other criticisms of private prisons. He witnessed systematic violence from prisoners and staff, lack of treatment for both physical and mental health issues, and many other shortcuts that put prisoners at risk.
Last Thursday, the Department of Justice responded to the mountain of negative research on private prisons by announcing that they would begin phasing out the use of privately operated prisons. While this will take a few years as contracts expire, there is no directive at the state level, and mass incarceration and related issues remain across the U.S., this is a major victory for a movement that has been fighting private prisons since the 1990s. So what does this have to do with you?
It’s hard to imagine that you might actually be supporting the practices that private prisons are infamous for – especially since that means your financial success depends on theirs.
The news that CCA and GEO (the other major private prison company in the US) lost the support of the federal government caused their stock prices to plummet nearly 50% until the companies froze trading. This drop affected most investors – probably including you. The top investors in private prisons include Vanguard (by far the largest – more than two times as much as any other investor), Blackrock, BNY Mellon, State Street, and Fidelity. Between 401Ks and personal investments handled by these big asset managers, most portfolios are invested in the private prison industry. We built our Lens to show you what industries you’re invested in without knowing, including private prisons.
It’s hard to imagine that you might actually be supporting the practices that private prisons are infamous for – especially since that means your financial success depends on theirs. In fact, you’re being punished financially for companies and practices that you don’t even want to support. Research shows that 90% of progressive companies tend to outperform their peers. With OpenInvest, for example, you can customize your investments to align with your personal values, and make the changes you’d like to see in the world, without sacrificing performance or suffering the hits that CCA and GEO did last week.
The DoJ mandate is only the first step to ending private prisons in the US. Organizations like The Sentencing Project, the ACLU’s private prison branch, and PrisonPolicy.org are working hard to improve America’s corrections industry across the board. The recent DoJ mandate is a strong reminder that thanks to years of action by concerned individuals, change can come. You already have the power: through your vote, your voice, your giving, and your investing. Will you use it?