Private Prisons and Investment Risks

Part Two:
How Private Prison Companies Fuel Mass Incarceration—and How Public Pension Funds Are at Risk

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.

“As a public school parent, I know teachers work hard to educate our children. We don’t want our children to end up in prison, and it’s heinous that there are companies that think prisons are a good way to make billions. It’s time to rethink how our money is being invested. Our children are our future.”

—Maulana Tolbert, Journey for Justice member, Detroit

Since 2013, we have periodically released these kinds of “Ranking Asset Managers” reports to provide information, for the purpose of transparency and education, for pension fund trustees and managers. The AFT is committed to working together with our allies to put an end to mass incarceration so that no child or family we serve has to endure the injustice of this practice, and so that for-profit corporations can no longer enrich themselves off of locking up communities of color.

View Part One: Private prisons, immigrant detention and investment risks