The Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement recently made a unanimous vote to remove all its investments from the for-profit sector. According to the executive director of the board, Francis Bielli, the board members voted 6-1 to sell its stock that is valued at approximately $1.2 million. The institution holds shares at G4S, CoreCivic, and the GEO Group. The money that will be obtained from the liquidation will be invested in other ventures over a couple of months. A report that was issued by the Inquirer and Daily News this year indicated the dangers of the for-profit sector, which has received billions of dollars from the federal government to house of over 34,000 convicts annually.
Research that was conducted by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General showed that private prisons have a relatively higher number lockdowns and violence cases. The institutions also provide poor health care services compared to facilities that are owned by the government. City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds believes that the board’s action was right since the people’s pension funds will no longer be invested in an industry that has a reputation of the violating civil rights. The sector has developed strong ties to Philadelphia.
The GEO Group is a renowned privately-held business that was established about 10 years ago by an Upper Derby-based former FBI agent, George Wackenhut. The company currently owns over 20 correction facilities that are located in Pennsylvania. One of them is the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County where 12 deaths were recorded as from 2002 to 2008. The firm also runs Hoffman Hall, which is located in Juniata Park and houses about 184 inmates.
According to the CFO of the City Council, Matthew Stitt, the action of board aimed at transforming the criminal justice system and also bringing a significant change in communities and lives. Philadelphia is not the only city that is withdrawing its investments from the private prisons sector. The New York City’s pension fund sold its $48 million stock that it owned in CoreCivic and GEO in June 2017. The for-profits prisons sector suffered a blow in August 2016 when the former deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, wrote a memo to the Bureau of Prisons advising them to stop the use of private correctional facilities. Attorney General Jeff Sessions whoever overturned the order in February 2017. The Trump administration has currently offered GEO federal contracts that are worth $774 million.