DIVEST FROM INHUMANE PRIVATE PRISONS
"Prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business."
- Angela Y. Davis, "Masked Racism" (1998)
Refuge(e) is a 15 minute documentary film that traces the incredible journey of two refugees, Alpha and Zeferino. Each fled violent threats to their life in their home countries, made the long, dangerous trip across most of the Western hemisphere to the US/Mexico border, and presented themselves at the border asking for political asylum only to be incarcerated in a for-profit prison in Cibola County, New Mexico for months on end without having committed any crime. They represent thousands more like them who can't tell their stories, and their fight for freedom and the right to live calls into question the nature of our immigrant detention system.
Nationwide, over 50,000 immigrants are detained in ICE detention centers - the highest number in this country’s history. Over 70% are detained in for-profit prisons. Many are refugees who have fled almost certain death in their home countries, only to be detained in deplorable conditions - often for many months or sometimes even years - while they await their asylum hearings.
Private prisons are a horrifically inhumane approach to incarceration. Widely recognized as a form of modern slavery, they center profit over the public interest and are built on a legacy of deeply entrenched racism. Numerous deaths from easily preventable causes have been documented of immigrants detained in these conditions.
The movement to divest from private prisons has a long successful history of pressuring cities, universities, and other major entities to pull their money out of this draconian system and has recently been gaining a lot of traction. Campaigns in cities like Seattle, Portland, and New York have all resulted in huge prison divestment victories. Faith communities like the Pension Board of the United Methodist Church—the largest faith-based pension fund in the U.S.— divested of all its private prison holdings, worth $1 million. Universities including Columbia, Georgetown, and the University of California, as well as the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), have divested from for-profit prison companies CoreCivic and GEO Group over their human rights abuses of migrants and other detainees. Since January 2019, 7 of the 14 banks that underwrite the loans for private prison companies have made firm commitments to end financing to the industry. These include: JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, SunTrust, BNP Paribas, PNC and FifthThird Bank.
Divestment from private prisons is a powerful way to take action around the inhumane incarceration of refugees. Check out the resources available here, talk to your community about how you’d like to take action, and contact us to join the movement to divest from private prisons.
Prison Divest SFDP is a special project of the SANTA FE DREAMERS PROJECT. Santa Fe Dreamers Project provides free legal services to immigrants to promote economic empowerment, community development, family unity, and liberation from detention. Our work is centered around the belief that supporting immigrants makes our whole community stronger.
The bulk of the information on this website comes from the organizations Freedom to Thrive and RealMoneyMoves. RealMoneyMoves works with high-net worth individuals to make finance a tool for social justice and Freedom to Thrive (formerly Enlace) has been steadily building a national grassroots movement for divestment from private prisons for over 10 years. We are deeply indebted to them for their years of hard work and the incredible resources they have developed to guide communities and individuals through the divestment process.