For Immediate Release
Prison Profiteers Unmasked
SAN FRANCISCO - Activists, the media, and even presidential candidates are speaking out against private prison companies and other corporations that profit from mass incarceration. That’s why the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has launched an online tool designed to help socially responsible investors align their portfolios with their values and divest from the prison industry: http://afsc.org/investigate
The new tool can scan any list of holdings and highlight prison-related investments. “We wanted to expand the focus and go beyond ‘the usual suspects,’ the facility management companies,” said Dr. Dalit Baum, AFSC’s Director of Economic Activism. “Our research maps the wider prison industry and profiles the main companies providing services that range from health and food services to private probation and the supply of surveillance apparatuses.”
Dalit Baum will be unveiling the Prison Screen at a Socially Responsible Investors (SRI) conference in Colorado Springs on November 3rd. Already, the tool has been met with enthusiasm in the SRI community. “This is important, pioneering work on a topic that has profound implications for our society and economy,” said Sonia Kowal, president of Zevin Asset Management. “I’m delighted to finally have a good and credible source of information on companies profiting from mass incarceration and I’m looking forward to using the tool to instigate impactful change.”
Criminal justice reform advocates are also eager to put the tool to work. “The profit motive is a key driver of mass incarceration in the U.S., and these corporations wield tremendous economic and political influence.” said Caroline Isaacs, Director of AFSC’s Arizona program and a long-time opponent of prison privatization. “This gives us new tools that allow us to target the ‘Achilles heel’ of the for-profit punishment industry—they need our money.”
Prisons cost the U.S. taxpayer approximately $39 billion a year, with a sizeable portion of that money going to private companies. Activists argue that this incentivizes corporations to lobby for harsh criminal justice policies that tear apart families and communities while undermining, rather than addressing, community safety. The tool scans for the multitude of profiteers that have sprung up to take advantage of a literally captive market for every imaginable product and service—from the uniforms to the food to the phone service.
“We know that there is something deeply wrong with profiting from human misery,” said Isaacs. “This tool will help us do something about it.”
The American Friends Service Committee is a practical expression of the faith of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Committed to the principles of nonviolence and justice, it seeks in its work and witness to draw on the transforming power of love, human and divine.