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Activists Protest Private Prisons

PHOTO: Activists are protesting the private prison industry in California. Photo credit: morguefile/arnoshwithal
PHOTO: Activists are protesting the private prison industry in California. Photo credit: morguefile/arnoshwithal
June 15, 2015

LOS ANGELES – Activists are protesting tax breaks for the $3 billion private prison industry - which runs 16 facilities in California. They protested at an industry conference in New York last week about a loophole that lets private prison companies claim to be in the real estate business and thus pay less income tax.

Ian Trupin, an organizer for the Responsible Endowments Coalition, said California is at the forefront of the move toward private prisons.

"After the federal government," he said, "California is the largest customer of the private prison industry in the United States."

In 2013, a federal judge ordered California to fix overcrowding in its prisons - which led to the practice of sending prisoners to private facilities. Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group, the two biggest private prison firms, say they're providing a public service.

Opponents such as Trupin say the firms make financial donations to lawmakers who support anti-crime laws - laws that swell the prison ranks.

"We need to really make this issue something toxic for politicians," Trupin said, "so they have to stop taking money from private prisons and stop passing the laws that this lobby is really going for."

Activists currently are running campaigns to press the University of California System and the County of Los Angeles to divest their holdings in private prison companies.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA