Private Prisons and Investment Risks: How Private Prison Companies Fuel Mass Incarceration--and How Public Pension Funds Are at Risk

Publication date: 
May 2019
American Federation of Teachers logo, featuring their name on the right with a blue badge with their acronym, AFT, in white letters on the left. Posted to accompany their report, Private Prisons and Investment Risks.

More people sit behind bars in the United States than in any other country on Earth, and the private prison industry depends on this economic model.

Mass incarceration overwhelmingly and discriminatorily impacts communities of color: More than 60 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population are black and Latino. Large, for-profit prison operators like CoreCivic and the GEO Group, along with a number of smaller companies owned by private equity firms that provide support services to detention centers, together make billions of dollars annually from this system.

“As a public school parent who works closely with teachers who serve black and brown children, I know the devastating impact that mass incarceration has on families. Private prison companies cut corners and put workers and inmates at risk, and they profit by putting people behind bars.”

—Angel Gober, Journey for Justice member, Pittsburgh

Mass incarceration is not only a racial justice and civil rights issue—it is also an investment issue. A large number of public pension funds have tens of millions of dollars’ worth of exposure to the private prison industry through their investment portfolios.

Read the AFT’s new report, “Private Prisons and Investment Risks, Part Two: How Private Prison Companies Fuel Mass Incarceration—and How Public Pension Funds Are at Risk,” and learn how investments in private prisons put your retirement savings at risk, and how you and your pension funds can hold these companies accountable. Our report:

  1. Identifies the principal companies, both publicly traded and private equity owned, that profit from mass incarceration;
  2. Outlines the risks to investors posed by these companies;
  3. Provides a “watch list” of private equity firms that own companies that provide services to prisons, jails and detention facilities;
  4. Calls on public pension funds to assess their direct and indirect exposure to these companies and asset managers and assess the risks they pose to the fund; and
  5. Provides action steps for pension fund trustees to mitigate these investment risks.
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