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PLN quoted in article on Wells Fargo protest re private prisons

Tennessean, Jan. 1, 2011.
PLN quoted in article on Wells Fargo protest re private prisons - Tennessean 2011

Immigrant rights group protests bank's investments

4:31 PM, Jul. 1, 2011

A local immigrant rights group is calling for a boycott of Wells Fargo bank for investing in funds that benefit for-profit prison companies.

About a dozen people affiliated with Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition set up outside the Wells Fargo bank on Fourth Avenue in downtown Nashville to ask the company to stop overseeing a mutual fund that invests in the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America and another private prison company, The GEO Group. Advocates say private prisons profit from the over-incarceration of people, particularly immigrants.

“They have a vested interest in locking up more people for longer periods of time,” said Alex Friedman, associate editor with the Human Rights Defense Center. “That is a perverse interest when it comes to criminal justice.”

Friedman was among a group of people who said they closed their bank accounts with Wells Fargo Friday in protest of the for-profit prison industry and concerns that the companies were influencing legislation that would lead to more incarceration and, as a result, bigger profits.

Wells Fargo responded that it doesn’t actually own any shares of either for-profit prison company, but manages mutual funds that include for-profit prison companies.

“Wells Fargo does not own shares of the GEO Group or CCA, nor have we invested our own assets in either company,” said a statement provided by the company. “We’ve been proud to serve the Hispanic community and other individuals who’ve immigrated to the United States since our earliest days as a financial services provider.”

Steven Owen, spokesman for CCA, said the company has a policy against advocating for any crime or sentencing policies and did not lobby for recently passed immigration enforcement laws in Arizona and Georgia.

“We respect the group’s right to protest, but this does nothing to help find solutions to a challenge that only grows in cost and complexity,” said Owen. “Fortunately, credible public and private institutions are partnering together and working hard to create and implement safe, humane and cost-effective ways that respect the dignity of the detainees and inmates entrusted to our care.”

The GEO Group could not be reached for comment.

[video available at the article link]

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