After years of targeted actions by everyday activists and concerned shareholders, JPMorgan Chase announced early this morning that they will stop financing GEO Group and CoreCivic — the largest operators of private prisons and immigrant detention centers in the U.S. This is a big win for the world of corporate accountability; one that many believe wouldn’t have been possible without hundreds of thousands of people nationally demanding change in the wake of growing concern over family detention. It also calls into question the financial viability of the private prison industry, which has come under fire both by activists and financial analysts.
Over the past few years, there’s been a steady drumbeat of actions from civil society addressing this relationship. In May of 2017, Make the Road New York, the Center for Popular Democracy, and allies began their #BackersOfHate campaign with civil disobedience at Chase’s Manhattan headquarters, followed by rallies outside of shareholder meetings in Texas and Delaware to call out the abuses immigrants face in private prisons and detention centers. Then in 2018, united under the hashtag #FamiliesBelongTogether, 80+ organizations — from immigrant rights nonprofits to social investing firms — came together to form a corporate accountability committee targeting big banks through both insider conversations and consumer-facing strategies (in full disclosure, the author’s firm, Candide Group, and its project Real Money Moves, are members of this committee).
On February 14th, Families Belong Together coalition members Daily Kos, CREDO, Make the Road NY, Presente.org, Rainforest Action Network, MomsRising, Conference of Superiors of Men, Candide Group, and Jobs with Justice put this ethos into action with protests at over 100 bank branches, and over 150,000 petition signatures asking Chase and Wells Fargo to break up with private prisons — or pledging to break up with their bank instead. Most visibly, Make the Road NY members showed up at CEO Jamie Dimon’s home in Manhattan with a mariachi band to serenade him with break up songs as a part of their ongoing #BackersOfHate campaign — a rousing start to Valentine’s Day.
Concern over private prisons has also migrated into the political sphere. Earlier this month Make the Road NY hosted hometown representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who pledged to hold oversight hearings to hold banks like Chase accountable for “investing in and making money off of the detention of immigrants.” These hearings are expected to still occur — many other banks still participate in private prison financing — but it looks like Chase is off the hook for now.
Read the full article at the source.