I did some digging around and, confirmed that a recent New Yorker article by Pulitzer nominee Jennifer Gonnerman was true. I found that both the New York City and New York State pension funds have a direct stake in corporations that are second cousins to slavery, the private prison industry. This is a shocking revelation. I know and respect the stewards of these funds, Tom Dinapoli and Scott Stringer. They both have impressive civil rights records. As members of the New York State Assembly, the two were loyal supporters of the grassroots movement to repeal the racist Rockefeller Drug Laws. It is hard to believe that two of the most progressive elected officials in New York would take workers' wages and invest them into such an inhumane enterprise.
The only explanation I could come up with is that they must have not have known that their respective pension funds were directly connected to such a repulsive operation. I brought my concerns to the attention of both men weeks ago, and, as of this writing, nothing has changed. Well, it's one thing not to know, it's quite another matter not to care.
As Michelle Alexander put it in "The New Jim Crow," mass incarceration in the United States has emerged as "a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow." Investing in companies that profit from this system is morally indefensible. I know both Dinapoli and Stringer have voiced opposition to mass incarceration. Yet in order to realize an increased value in the private prison portion of their equity portfolio, they must hope for what they claim to oppose -- the expansion of the private prison system and the growth of mass incarceration.
But it's not just morally reprehensible to invest in prisons, it is also fiscally irresponsible. Two of the private prison stocks the city and state have wagered sacred pension fund money on, the GEO Group and Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), companies that control approximately 75 percent of the prison market, are heading south, daily hitting new 52 week lows. From President Obama's recent spate of pardons, to pending state and federal legislation to cut prison sentences for low level, non-violent offenders, to the #BlackLivesMatter movement calling for an end to the Prison Industrial Complex, the writing is on the wall. Prisons are no longer a growth industry.
In order to educate the public about this the Prison Blues Brothers dramatically dressed in striped prison uniforms, will stage a musical protest for New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Thursday, September 3, at 12:30 pm, in front of the Comptroller's office in the Municipal Building, at One Center Street. This will be the first public event by EpicNow (End the Prison Industrial Complex Now) to educate the public about the use of New York City Pension Fund money to support the private prison industry, which abets and profits from the unjust and inhumane mass incarceration of African Americans, Latinos and other minorities. New York City's Pension Fund, now over $165 billion, is the 6th largest in America. EpicNow is urging Scott Stringer to disinvest the fund from private prison corporations like GEO Group and Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), which control 75% of the private prison market.
New York must join Columbia University, General Electric, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Pershing Square Capital Management, Allianz Asset Management and the growing number of U.S. institutions and organizations that have said "No!" to mass incarceration by divesting from the private prison industry. Performers at the PRISON BLUES BROTHERS event will include John McDonagh (stand-up comedian and host of : New York aWBAI Radio's Talk Backnd Radio Free Eireann); Paul ("Zool") Zulkowitz (actor, sculptor, and Green Party Peace Action Committee member); Andres Rieloff (Chilean guitarist, vocalist and composer); and me, Randy Credico (political satirist and former New York mayoral candidate).