Following a unanimous vote from the funds’ trustees, the city sold off about $48 million in stocks and bonds of three private prison companies.
Private prisons have become a sore spot for many, particularly following a federal audit of private prison facilities that discovered several major issues, as well as eight immigrant detainees who died during the last fiscal year in private immigration detention centers. These centers currently hold 65% of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, according to the office of Controller Scott Stringer.
“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. “Divesting is simply the right thing to do — financially and morally.” The three groups that have had stocks and bonds sold include GEO Group, CoreCivic, and G4S. A representative for the GEO Group made the following statement:
“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.” The divestment decision got rolling in September when the trustees agreed to study it. They can only divest after analysis deems that doing so would add minimal or no risk to the pension funds. Included in the city’s pension funds are the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund and the Board of Education Retirement System.
“It is time we put our money where our morals are,” Public Advocate Letitia James, a NYCERS trustee, said. “For years, I have called on our city to protect the pensions of hardworking New Yorkers by investing in areas that are both financially and ethically sound.”
John Adler, chief pension investment advisor to the mayor, added, “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.”