Monday, December 31, 2012

Repost: Private Prisons in a Wider Context: Video

I watched this video again and felt that it might be worth re-posting. There are some really important points in here, especially those made by Michelle Alexander. Many people watched the first video but not the second. Are you one of those people? Check it out.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Private Prisons in a Wider Context: Video

It has been encouraging to see the awareness about the role of private prison companies in influencing criminalization of people grow and grow in the last year.  SB 1070 and the relationship between various legislators like Russell Pearce and private prison companies like CCA and Geo Group within the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and between governor Jan Brewer and CCA, has been exposed recently.  People had already started to address the connection between Wells Fargo and private prison-run detention centers that hold thousands of migrants in other parts of the country and a tiny bit here in AZ.  Now there are country-wide campaigns popping off against private prisons companies and against ALEC.

However, as horrible as the conditions in private prisons are (and they do tend to be several times worse than state-run facilities), and as obvious as it is that SB 1070 passed with great influence on the part of those who stand to make millions off of putting people in cages, I would hate to see the focus be solely on this most recent phenomenon.  An anti-private prison campaign can easily fall into the same traps as the "go after the real criminals" message, as though there's nothing wrong with the "criminal" "justice" system.  As though the criminalization of people who cross a man-made line is not similar to the criminalization of so many of the people in prisons today and historically.  We should also consider the limitations of previous nation-wide anti-private prison campaigns like the one that targeted Sodexho in the early 2000's. A focus only on the privatization of prisons can only divert energy from addressing the prison system in general; the various reasons people end up in jail or prison, and the ways in which the system will never and is not meant to address the real ills of our society.

I put together the following video to provide a complex yet still simplistic (limited by time and resources) history of criminalization of people for the benefit of the few.  Please share it with anyone you think would be interested.  This video is a follow up from several of my blog entries including No Borders or Prison Walls and What came first: the Racism or the Profit Motive? On Private Prisons' push for SB1070

Please also view the 2nd part.  It all ties together, and there's some good commentary towards the end.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

DeConcini Not the Only CCA Board Member of Concern

The current prison divestment campaign in Arizona seems to be concentrating on Arizona Board of Regents member Dennis DeConcini's involvement on the board of CCA (Corrections Corporation of America).  What I find interesting is that many groups associated with the prison divestment campaign are funded by a group who has a board member who is also a CCA board member.  The following are emails I've sent to inform groups of this (which I never got responses to).  (I have more to say about a concentration on privatization of prisons, but the last post I was working on this summer got lost, but I'll likely pick it up again some day.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:02 PM
Hi there,
I recently came across your website and learned about your campaign regarding Deconcini on the CCA board.  I'm wondering if you know about Thurgood Marshall Jr.  He is also on the CCA board, but he's also on the Ford Foundation board.  A number of groups involved in the campaign(s) against private prisons or CCA in particular get funding from Ford Foundation.  I personally feel that a group that gets money from Ford Foundation must not be doing anything too threatening to the system in the first place, but it should be alarming to those groups that there is this relationship... (the rest is the same as the latter part of the following email)
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:37 PM

Hi there,
I am contacting you because of your prison divestment campaign, and some info you might not be aware of.
I'm wondering if you know about Thurgood Marshall Jr.  He is on the CCA board, but he's also on the Ford Foundation board.  A number of groups involved in the campaign(s) against private prisons or CCA in particular get funding from Ford Foundation. It should be alarming to the groups that there is this relationship.  Some groups that get Ford funding: Enlace though perhaps indirectly, Detention Watch Network via Tides Center, The Sentencing Project, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, etc. (see more below).
I'm wondering what you think of this issue.  The Fuerza Tucson campaign is seeking to get DeConcini to resign from the CCA board.  I wouldn't guess that groups who get funded by Ford would have any influence on the foundation but instead are concerned with maintaining that funding.  It is possible that Marshall Jr. is just on these boards on paper and Ford or CCA may not ever realize the seeming conflict that arises.
I have my own ideas, which are part of this essay that i wrote last year:
I'd be interested in hearing what you all think about this.

You can search the grants database here:
more groups:
(Alto Arizona via NDLON)
Brave New Foundation
Border Network for Human Rights
Center for New Community
(Cuentame via Brave New Foundation)
Enlace Institute/Communities United for People
Grassroots Leadership
Interfaith Worker Justice
Institute for Transnational Social Change
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
(Puente Movement, via NDLON/Alto Arizona, Tonatierra)
Resource Generation
Seventh Generation Fund
(Tonatierra via Seventh Generation Fund and NDLON)


Thursday, August 2, 2012 6:53 PM
Hi there,
Not sure if you've seen my last email yet, but i was looking at your website again today and noticed the most recent article posted about Wells Fargo, at least the first few paragraphs (see below) could apply to Ford Foundation in only a slightly different way.  I am genuinely interested in how you feel about this issue.  We don't know what Ford Foundation invests in.  For all we know they have stock in CCA or Geo or Wells Fargo, but having a board member on CCA is adequate for me to be a bit alarmed.
anyway, here's an article from today that you might like:

Janus-Faced Banking: How Wells Fargo Profits on Communities of Color

By Christopher Petrella
Social geographer, David Harvey, is famous for having noted that economic crises often “reveal the rationality of fundamentally irrational systems.” For Harvey, a crisis discloses the “irrational rationalizers” of our contradictory capitalist arrangement. Philanthro-capitalism, or the popular practice of applying business strategies to social challenges, represents the very core of this contradiction. Firms participating in philanthro-capitalist (ad)ventures privately support the very oppressive systems—white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, to name a few —that they publicly denounce.
Enter Wells Fargo, the nation’s fourth largest bank and the principal mortgage originator in the United States.
Earlier this summer Wells Fargo announced its historic $3.395 million grant in support of theHispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF).  The grant represents the single largest corporate contribution to HSF, “the nation’s premier not-for-profit organization supporting Hispanic higher education.” Founded in 1975, “HSF provides American families with the financial and educational resources they need to achieve a college education.”  To date, HSF has awarded over $360 million in scholarships and has supported a broad range of outreach and education programs to assist students and their families navigate collegiate life, from gaining admission and securing financial aid to finding employment after graduation.
HSF’s strategic vision includes “build[ing] a coalition of corporate and philanthropic partners committed to increasing Hispanic degree attainment.”
But Wells Fargo’s largess is as generous as it is ironic. Generous because $3.395 million is a large chunk of change, but ironic because of Wells Fargo’s simultaneously antagonistic relationship with the “Latin community.”
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—the federal agency responsible for protecting investors and maintaining fair markets—Wells Fargo currently holds somewhere between 4,400,000-4,700,000  shares in the GEO Group, the nation’s largest private detention  owner and operator. With over 4 million shares of the GEO Group valued at close to $90 million, Wells Fargo owns nearly 8 percent of the company.


The following is the portion of my essay which discusses my thoughts on this situation.

Opposition to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)—which runs private detention centers and has influenced legislation like SB1070 (through the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC) so they may continue to profit—is at odds with the interests of Thurgood Marshall Jr, a board member of both Ford Foundation and CCA. Whether or not there is some awareness of this seeming contradiction on the part of CCA or Marshall Jr., it may be more useful for Ford to fund legal, non-militant opposition in contrast to the much more militant targeting of businesses that invest in private prison companies (like Wells Fargo who invests in GEO Group, another large private prison company) such as the actions by anarchists that have been happening in various cities across the US. In addition, it seems as though focusing on private prisons as an aberration of the criminal “justice” system, deflecting attention away from the state and towards private entities, would be more in the interest of the Ford Foundation since they seem to be more generally allied with the state than any one corporation. To them it would be more important to have activists worrying solely about the privatization of prisons while leaving mass incarceration intact.