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Shareholder Resolutions Would Stop Private Prison Firms from Housing Separated Immigrant Families
In November 2018, shareholder resolutions were filed with CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, and The GEO Group – the nation’s two largest private prison companies – that would prohibit them from housing immigrant detainee children who have been separated from their parents, or parents separated from their children.
CoreCivic and GEO operate a number of immigration detention centers under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While the companies have denied that they house children separated from their parents, the resolutions note they “may change that policy in the future or may enter into future contracts to house separated immigrant children and/or parents.”
According to recent news reports, immigrant families are still being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Trump administration is “actively considering” plans to renew separation efforts.
CoreCivic and GEO have had “a controversial history with respect to housing immigrant detainees,” the resolutions’ supporting statements noted. For example, “A CoreCivic employee was convicted of sexually abusing multiple female detainees at the Company’s T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Immigrant detainees have staged protests and hunger strikes at CoreCivic detention centers. There have been at least 32 deaths at Company-operated immigrant detention facilities, including at least seven suicides.”
And with respect to GEO, “Of the five immigrant detention facilities with the highest number of sexual abuse complaints, three are operated by GEO Group. Immigrant detainees have staged hunger strikes at GEO Group detention centers. Of the 18 detainee deaths in ICE custody in FY 2016 and 2017, nine occurred at GEO-run facilities.”
Further, both companies are currently facing lawsuits “for using immigrant detainees to perform work for wages as low as $1.00 per day.”
The resolutions were introduced by Alex Friedmann, associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, the parent organization of Prison Legal News, who owns a small amount of CoreCivic and GEO Group stock as an activist shareholder. He has introduced a number of other resolutions with both companies in the past.
His prior resolutions have called on CoreCivic and GEO to report on what they are doing to reduce incidents of rape and sexual abuse in their facilities; to reduce the cost of phone calls made by prisoners to family members; to require the companies to spend five percent of their net profit on rehabilitative and reentry programs; and to require independent audits of their detention facilities. The firms have objected to all of those shareholder resolutions.
“If CoreCivic’s executives don’t believe they should profit from families being separated, then they should have no objection to this resolution and should let it go before shareholders for a vote,” Friedmann stated. “But detaining immigrant families – including children – has been very profitable for the company. While CoreCivic claims it doesn’t set immigration policy, it does have the ability to set its own policies and to decline to use its facilities to hold children or parents who have been separated by order of government officials.”
Among other immigrant detention facilities, CoreCivic operates the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, which mainly houses women and children. In September 2018, the City of Eloy, Arizona ended a controversial contract with CoreCivic to run that facility. GEO Group operates the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, which mainly houses women and children.
The Human Rights Defense Center is running a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of contacting shareholders about the resolution if it makes it through the SEC’s review process. See: https://gofundme.com/StopFamilySeparation.
Should the resolutions be approved by shareholders they would require the companies to adopt a policy of not housing separated immigrant detainee parents or children by December 31, 2019, and to modify or cancel any contracts which conflict with that policy when it goes into effect.
Over 80 percent of CoreCivic’s stock and almost 90 percent of GEO Group stock is owned by institutional shareholders – including investment firms, mutual funds and banks. Some of the top stock owners include the Vanguard Group; Blackrock, Inc.; FMR, LLC; State Street Corporation; Barrow, Hanley Mewhinney & Strauss, LLC and Hotchkis & Wiley Capital Management, LLC.
Source: HRDC press release (Dec. 4, 2018)