Wells Fargo Profits from Private Prisons

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JailFlickrCaseySerinMEDIA ROOTS — As big banks inject record amounts of cash into lobbying this year, largely aimed at access to financial regulators, Wells Fargo, in particular, stands out because of its added rapacious dimension of investments in for-profit prisons and immigrant detention centres.  Certainly, legal wrangling over deportation policies is politicised.  Yet, whereas pre-9/11, undocumented immigrants were summarily deported to their country of origin by border patrol agents along the border, post-9/11 for-profit detention centres are hugely profiting from the detention of scores of immigrants apprehended throughout the country, not just along the border at the point of entry.

Meanwhile, one of Wells Fargo’s biggest investors, the for-profit prison firm GEO Group, Inc., invests millions in lobbying for ever more draconian anti-immigrant legislation, as Eric Dolan (in the article below) and Hyun-Mi Kim (in the interview below) explain.  Kim notes, the racist anti-immigrant SB 1070 Bill in Arizona was shaped in large part by the nation’s top-two for-profit prison firms GEO Group, Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America.  The two firms, says Kim, raked in a whopping $2.9 Billion in profits in 2010. 

As regressive policies, such as NAFTA, create economic refugees forced to migrate from Latin America to the U.S. in search of employment, predatory anti-immigrant policies, shaped by for-profit prison firms, incentivise prolonged detentions, such as at the notorious T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Texas, as Davey D notes (below). 

Kim correctly points out the complete betrayal by Obama to his campaign promises of compassion towards immigrant communities.  Not only have record numbers of immigrants been imprisoned under Obama’s support for the regressive policies of I.C.E. and S-Comm, but Obama has even run defence on behalf of for-profit detention centres by exempting them from the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.  As Frontline has reported, immigrants “held in U.S. immigration detention facilities filed more than 170 allegations of sexual abuse over the last four years, mostly against guards and other staff at the centers, according to government documents obtained by FRONTLINE and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).”  Thus, not only must immigrants endure economic abuse, class-warfare, and arbitrary detention, but torture as well. 



RAW STORY — The advocacy group Small Business United on Thursday called on Wells Fargo to provide a full accounting of investments related to private prisons and immigrant detention centers.”

Wells Fargo is one of the largest investors in Geo Group, Inc. — the second largest private prison company in the world contracted by state and federal government agencies. The group spends millions lobbying for stricter immigration enforcement.

Wells Fargo has claimed the investments in the GEO Group were made by Wells Fargo mutual funds on behalf of clients, not investments made by Wells Fargo and Company.

For-profit prisons are associated with heightened levels of violence toward prisoners and have limited incentives to reduce future crime, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The perverse incentives to maximize profits and cut corners — even at the expense of safety and decent conditions — may contribute to an unacceptable level of danger in private prisons,” the report stated.

After spending a month in solitary confinement in a GEO Group operated Texas prison, 32-year-old Jesus Manuel Galindo allegedly died of an epileptic seizure in December 2008. The cell lacked an operational intercom, which would have allowed Galindo — who needed regular medical attention — to call for help. The neurologist who reviewed Galindo’s autopsy said he was “set up to die.”

Read more about how Wells Fargo takes heat over investments in private prison industry.

© 2004-2011 Raw Story Media, Inc.


On Wednesday, November 2, 2011, Hyun-Mi Kim, an immigrant supporter of the Occupy Movement, spoke with KPFA/Pacifica Radio’s Davey D (of “Hard Knock Radio” and “The Morning Mix with Davey D”) and Dennis Bernstein (of “Flashpoints”) during KPFA’s live coverage of the historic Occupy Oakland General Strike events.  Their discussion included Obama’s betrayal of campaign promises, such as the continued support of racial profiling and criminalisation of immigrant communities, Wells Fargo and “the relationship between Wall Street corporation-supported detention centres,” and anti-immigrant policies.  –Messina


Hard Knock Radio/Flashpoints, KPFA, Pacifica Radio

Live coverage of Occupy Oakland General Strike, 11/2/11, 3:00pm PDT

Davey D (1:33:45):  “We have here Hyun-Mi Kim.  And you’re down here this afternoon.  What organisation are you with?”

Hyun-Mi Kim:  “Well, I work for a non-profit legal services organisation called Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach.  I am not here on behalf of my organisation today, but I just wanted to talk about how proud I am to be part of this organisation that provides low-cost/free legal services for the immigrant community.  But the reason I wanted to come on-air today is, really, to speak about why and how immigrant communities and people of colour communities should not only support the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but why they should play a much deserved, active role in organising their own rallies to be part of the bigger movement.  And I’m an immigrant myself.  I’m a Korean immigrant.  I came here when I was 15 years old.  And [three] years ago when President Obama was running for the White House in 2008, I was very excited about the possibility of having the first Black President in this country.  But I was really most excited about his promise to immigrant communities that he would show compassion, that he would not tolerate racial profiling practices that have been going on so long in people of colour communities in this country.  While [Obama] was on the campaign trail he chanted and shouted, ‘¡Si se puede! Yes, we can!’ with our Latino brothers and sisters.  But since he got elected, I really think his actual immigration policies have shown a very tragic contrast, in reality.”

Davey D (1:35:18):  “Let me ask you this.  Do you think his immigration policies are reflective of a 1% policy?”

Hyun-Mi Kim:  “Yes.”

Davey D:  “What would be the benefit for that class of people?”

Hyun-Mi Kim:  “Okay, so I would think that conversation would take me to the relationship between the Wall Street corporation-supported detention centres and how the detention centres are breaking up hundreds of thousands of immigrant families in this country.  So, what is happening right now is there are three major corporations in this country.  They are investing and building more and more detention centres.  And I want to name the names of those corporations today.  Those three corporations are Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and I can’t remember the last corporation’s name [Management and Training Corporation].  But those two groups are the nation’s largest owners and operators of government-contracted correctional facilities.  And they are actually traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  And just last year in 2010, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group made over $2.9 Billion dollars.  $2.9 Billion dollars in profit and they actually even played a very active role in drafting the immigration law in Arizona SB-1070, which is an extremely racist and discriminatory law.”

Davey D:  “Just a couple of things, Dennis.  I know we’ve done a lot [on Hard Knock Radio] and I know you guys have covered a lot on ‘Flashpoints’ on the detention centres.  And, you know, I don’t know if a lot of people realise what this is because they think it’s, entire families go there.  Just being in Texas, the Don Hutto Detention Center was just notorious for just bringing babies, mothers, pregnant folks, keeping them in there for months at a time locked up.  And so—”

Dennis Bernstein:  “And mixing men and women, exposing teenagers to hardcore folks, a brutal situation and—”

Davey D:  “And just breaking up families in general.”

Dennis Bernstein:  “Breaking up families.  And at the core here is that these prisons for profit, I began investigating C.C.A. a long time ago, just when they got started with the immigration operation.  And one of the things that they do, it’s a total contradiction to the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment because their concept is no rights, no due process, the longer we can keep them in jail, the more money we make.  So, the idea of ‘corrections,’ of people getting better, getting healed, recovering, they have a bad time, they have a bad situation, they get arrested.  They work, their modus operandi, ‘how long can we keep them in jail?’”

Hyun-Mi Kim:  “That’s right.  And, you know, the Corrections Corporation of America, they currently own and operate more than 60 facilities, including 44 company-owned facilities.  And I want to speak a little bit about their relationship with the U.S. Military.  And do you know what they are doing now?  They are actually hiring now, the national military magazine, G.I. Jobs to recruit the military veterans to come and work at these detention centres.  There was an article in G.I. Jobs edition of September and the title of the article was called ‘Careers in Corrections.’  The publication described:  ‘military experience as the perfect match for this recession-resistant industry and our culture has much in common with the U.S. Military,’ said Wendy Gardner, C.C.A. Senior Director, Staffing and Recruiting.  And C.C.A. has twice, twice, been ranked in G.I. Jobs’ annual listing of the top fifty military-friendly employers.  So, we have to connect all those dots about Wells Fargo Bank, how they’re investing their money, using the mutual funds that their clients, you know, when their clients put in their money to open their accounts.  And they are actually now building a relationship with the U.S. Military to recruit the Iraq and the Afghanistan War Veterans [that] come back here.  And they work in the detention centres, funded by Wells Fargo, breaking up thousands and thousands of immigrant families.”

Davey D:  “Right.  And what they won’t say is they’ll couch it as:  ‘We are creating new jobs.’  But they won’t exactly tell people what those jobs are.  And so, yeah, that’s a very sinister way of doing things.  As we get ready to let you go, Hyun-Mi, what would be one or two things that you want people listening to do?”

Hyun-Mi Kim (1:39:41):  “You know, I want them to come out this Saturday, the immigrant rights organisations are putting on a march this Saturday [11/5/11] against Wells Fargo.  And they are gonna be educating the public about the relationship Wells Fargo has been building with the corporate-owned detention centres.  But one quick thing I want to talk about, Davey D, before I go is, I don’t know if you’ve seen the PBS Frontline documentary, “Lost in Detention.”  It’s a brand new documentary exposing Obama’s immigration policy.  And the most disturbing aspect of the documentary to me was how [the] Obama Administration has exempted the immigration detention centres from the Prison Rape Elimination Act.  This Act was established back in 2003 because there had been so much sexual abuse allegations, sexual abuse taking place.  The Congress passed this Act to make sure that when there’s an allegation they will do a thorough investigation of each allegation.  But Obama, since he came to the White House, he has eliminated this Act from the immigration detention centres.  So, in this documentary, the Frontline investigator talks about how there have been so many women who have been sexually harassed.  They have been raped while they’ve been shackled.  And there’s nothing getting done about it because of the exemption of this law.  So, this is extremely, extremely outrageous and unconscionable.” 

Davey D (1:41:02):  “And as we mentioned this goes all the way up to the doorsteps in Wall Street.”

Hyun-Mi Kim:  “That’s right.”

Davey D:  “They have people who have their 401Ks; they have people that are betting on it on the stock market, all the way down and around.  So, this is something that we need to keep on the front of our minds.  Hyun-Mi, we appreciate you comin’ on.”

Hyun-Mi Kim:  “Sure, thank you for having me.  And I just wanna mention that I’m a proud Member of [the] KPFA Local Station Board.  And I just so appreciate Dennis and Davey.  You guys have been doing such an awesome job covering this [Occupy Oakland General Strike] rally.  Thank you very much.”

Davey D:  “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”

Dennis Bernstein:  “Thank you.”

Transcript by Felipe Messina

Photo by flickr user Casey Serin

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