Action: Wells Fargo Investment in the Private Prison Industry

At a time when the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, Occupy DC will stand in solidarity with Enlace and Detention Watch Network on January 24 at 5 p.m. at the Wells Fargo branch in Tivoli Square (3325 14th St. NW, Washington D.C.) to protest the grave injustices of the prison-industrial complex, which has taken its most menacing form in the profit-driven private prison industry.

Wells Fargo is the primary investor in the GEO Group, the second largest private prison corporation in the United States. Over 1,000 D.C. residents are currently incarcerated in GEO Group’s for-profit prison, Rivers Correctional Institution, in Winton, North Carolina. With the consent of federal, state and local governments nationwide, the private prison industry accumulates profit by jailing American citizens with often little to no oversight from those governmental bodies. In addition, the private prison industry is instrumental, if not directly responsible, for writing laws that keep 2.3 million people behind bars each day, nearly 60 percent of them people of color. Nearly 50 percent of all immigrants incarcerated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are held in private prisons. “The private prison industry is … one of the driving forces behind the over-incarceration of youth, primarily youth of color,” Sam Goldberg, a D.C. attorney and juvenile justice advocate, told The Occupied Washington Times.

While the business model of the private prison industry — induce the incarceration of as many Americans as possible — is booming, at the detriment to government budgets (it costs an average of $40,000 a year to imprison a person), private prison facilities have been linked to violence, substandard living conditions and many forms of abuse. This business model does not take into account the broken individuals, families and communities that result from mass, unjust levels of imprisonment in this country at a time when the collusion of government and private interests have left the nation (and world) economy in dire condition. According to a 2011 report by the Council for Court Excellence, 46 percent of the 550 previously-incarcerated D.C. residents surveyed said they were unemployed. The report also found more than 50 percent of D.C. businesses surveyed said factors such as legal liability protection and certificates of good standing or rehabilitation — none of which the District of Columbia government has seriously addressed to improve ex-prisoner employment — would “significantly increase or influence hiring” of a former prisoner.

Occupy DC has previously called on Wells Fargo to divest in the private prison industry. On Dec. 2, 2011, Occupy DC led an action on the Wells Fargo location in the Shaw district of Washington, D.C., at 7th and T Streets NW.

Tuesday’s action will be one of many simultaneous protests going on across the country as part of Enlace’s Private Prison Divestment Campaign. For more information on the campaign and the national day of action go to: http://enlaceintl.org/programs/prison-divestment/.

A flier in English and Spanish with the details of the event, courtesy of Detention Watch Network: http://detentionwatchnetwork.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/raise-your-voice-spa.pdf

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