USA: California State Teachers’ Retirement System divests from for-profit prison companies GEO Group & Core Civic

In November 2018, the Teachers’ Retirement Board of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted to divest from CoreCivic and GEO Group, two U.S. publicly-held companies that operate private prisons. CoreCivic and GEO Group had been accused of profiting from the detention of immigrant and asylum-seeking families and separation of families in the United States. See responses from both companies to this allegation here.

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Auteur: Michelle Mussuto, CalSTRS

On July 20, 2018 at the Investment Committee meeting, Chief Investment Officer Christopher J. Ailman initiated CalSTRS Divestment Policy in relation to private prisons after the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy for border crossing led to the separation of children from their parents. Since July, CalSTRS heightened their due diligence with both CoreCivic and GEO Group in order to engage both companies in productive dialog surrounding their business practices... “The board conducted a review of the staff research; we agreed that the engagement efforts were thorough and listened to our expert investment consultants. Based on all the information and advice we were provided, the board decided to divest according to the policy criteria,” said Teachers’ Retirement Board Investment Committee Chair Harry Keiley.

The process of divesting from CalSTRS CoreCivic and GEO Group holdings will begin immediately and is expected to be completed within six months. As of November 6, 2018 combined CalSTRS Global Equities and Fixed Income Portfolios’ holdings in CoreCivic and in GEO Group were $12,142,211.

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Auteur: Emily Claire Goldman, Educators for Migrant Justice

On Wednesday, November 7th, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Board voted to divest from for-profit prison companies CoreCivic and GEO Group over their widespread human rights abuses. This is one of the few times in CalSTRS’ history that advocates have successfully pushed the country’s second-largest pension fund to divest... Board members engaged in an emotional debate on the impact of CoreCivic and GEO Group’s facilities on migrants and local communities of color before Nora Vargas, a CalSTRS board member and social justice advocate, raised a motion to divest. The motion was quickly seconded and was then put to a vote where it passed with majority support... “This rejection of private prisons is a resounding vote against child separations and indefinite family detentions, not to mention mass incarceration.  Human dignity is the birthright of every human,” said Jonas LaMattery-Brownell a Berkeley Independent Studies Teacher who made a statement to CalSTRS’ Executive Officers during a meeting over the summer.

... It’s tax money for Californians. It’s our income, earned with the blood sweat and tears we shed caring for the children of the state,” explained Angela Coppola, a Berkeley High history teacher who first alerted colleagues of CalSTRS’ investments in the migrant abuse companies. CalSTRS’ decision puts mounting pressure on its sister fund, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), to follow suit and divest its holdings from CoreCivic and GEO Group.

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Auteur: Randy Diamond, Chief Investment Officer - CIO

The chief investment officer of the second-largest US retirement plan, the $224 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), has ordered a review to determine if the pension organization should divest from the stock and bonds of two public companies that run private prisons... Ailman said he wanted to determine whether the prison companies were violating CalSTRS’s human rights risk factor, one of 21 risk factors adopted by the pension system’s board to guide investments...  Ailman said the human rights risk factor was more written for countries and not aimed at individual companies, calling the issue “complex.” The CIO’s comments come as the two largest private prison companies, Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic Inc., and Boca Raton, Florida-based Geo Group, have come under increasing criticism from Democratic lawmakers and immigration rights groups about their housing of immigration detainees under the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. Earlier this month, New Yok State Controller Thomas DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the $207 billion New York State Common Fund, ordered the third-largest US pension fund to divest its stock of CoreCivic and GEO Group. The New York City Pension Funds had divested of the two companies back in 2017...  Among the advocates at the July 20 meeting were several dozen teachers, including representatives of the Berkeley, California, school system and other school districts. They argued CoreCivic Inc and the GEO Group disregarded human rights and civil liberties. Both companies have denied they violate human rights.

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