JPMorgan Is The Latest High-Profile Name To Divest From Private Prisons And Detention Centers

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Written by Dana Sanchez
A tower is pictured outside of the razor wire at the Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton, Okla, Monday, July 10, 2017. The GEO Group, Inc., the Florida-based operator of the private prison, estimated that about 400 inmates caused a disturbance late Sunday, July 9, 2017, taking two guards hostage and refusing to return to their cells before they were finally corralled by law enforcement officers. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

A month after Donald Trump became president, he rescinded a Barack Obama directive from Aug. 2016 to phase out federal use of private prisons.

After taking a 40-percent nosedive, stocks of CoreCivic Inc and GEO Group Inc — the two major U.S. private prison operators — rebounded, Reuters reported.

Black people have been historically overrepresented in county jails and federal and state prisons, but the racial disparities in private prisons are even worse, according to UC Berkeley African-American studies Ph.D. student Christopher Petrella. Petrella wrote “The Color of Corporate Corrections,” NPR reported in 2014.


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After Trump immigration policies approved and stepped up the separation of undocumented minors from their parents, activism heated up against financing private prisons, according to Reuters.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, the biggest bank in the U.S. by assets, says it has decided to stop financing private operators of prisons and detention centers.

Other banks including Bank of America and Wells Fargo have underwritten bonds or syndicated loans for CoreCivic and GEO Group. In 2018, banks raised about $1.8 billion in debt over three deals, according to Refinitiv data.

Wells Fargo said in January it would reduce its relationship with the prison industry as part of its “environmental and social risk management” process.

Prison companies account for about 10 percent of federal and state prison beds, according to Moody’s Investors Service. But two-thirds of people held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are in private detention centers, S&P Global Ratings estimated in 2018.

Harvard University Prof. Cornel West recently signed a Harvard petition to divest the university’s endowment from prisons. The divestment campaign describes itself as a reparatory justice initiative.

Harvard has publicly acknowledged and apologized for the university’s “direct complicity in the institution of slavery,” but it continues to profit from it, according to the petition.

More than 30 celebrities and athletes have said they will divest from private prison investments. The Candide Group, an Oakland, Cal.-based impact investment advisory firm with a focus on social justice, has started a new initiative aimed, in part, at divesting from private prison investments.