$48 million

New York City pension funds will no longer invest in private prisons

Development East
New York City pension funds will no longer invest in private prisons. (Courtesy babawawa via pixabay)
New York City pension funds will no longer invest in private prisons. (Courtesy babawawa via pixabay)

The pension system provided by New York City will no longer invest in private prisons, Controller Scott Stringer has announced.

Before yesterday, the city’s pension fund previously held $48 million in stocks and bonds of three private prison companies: GEO Group, CoreCivic, and Group 4 Securicor. However, the controller’s office revealed on Thursday that these stocks and bonds had been sold off after a unanimous vote from the fund’s trustees. The three companies have a 20 percent-or-higher revenue yield from private prisons. New York City will reportedly keep track on the portfolios on a yearly basis to see if new private prisons are added.

“Morally, the industry wants [to] turn back the clock on years of progress on criminal justice, and we can’t sit idly by and watch that happen,” Stringer said in the New York Daily News. “Divesting is simply the right thing to do—financially and morally.”

The decision to sell off the investments in GEO Group, CoreCivic, and G4S was made after a federal audit of private prisons conducted in 2016 found that some were not meeting the standards set by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). One of the findings was:

There were periods after [a] riot during which health services staffing levels failed to meet minimum contractual thresholds. Moreover, between December 2012 and September 2015, the approximately 2,300-inmate Adams County facility was staffed with only a single physician for 434 days (43 percent of the time) and a single dentist for 689 days (69 percent of the time). This resulted in inmate-to-provider ratios that were about double those specified in BOP program statements.

In addition to this, the Daily News reported that eight immigrant detainees have died in the last fiscal year while in private immigration detention centers—these house 65 percent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, so said Stringer’s office.

In a statement given to the Daily News, GEO Group said: “We strongly reject the baseless claims that led to this misguided decision. We’re proud of our longstanding record providing high quality services, while treating the men and women in our care with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Meanwhile, John Adler, chief pension investment advisor to the mayor, commented: “Private prison companies prioritize profits over humane treatment of immigrants and inmates, and their stocks’ wild price swings over the past year show the risks inherent in their business model. The Mayor supports divestment from private prisons after thorough analysis from our outside investment consultants, the City Law Department, and the Bureau of Asset Management showed that it was a prudent step for our pension funds to take.”

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