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New 'App' Pinpoints Companies that Gain from Incarceration

The movement to end mass incarceration in the U.S. has a new digital tool for its toolbox. Credit: larryfarr/morguefile.com
The movement to end mass incarceration in the U.S. has a new digital tool for its toolbox. Credit: larryfarr/morguefile.com
November 2, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee's incarceration rate has quadrupled since 1978, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The trend is a concern for human rights advocates, and one group has created a new digital tool to help convince corporations to stop profiting from mass incarceration.

The American Friends Service Committee says more than 2.4 million people are behind bars in the U.S. more than any other nation. Dalit Baum, director of economic activism with AFSC who will unveil the new platform this week, says prisons funded by taxpayers are big business for private companies.

"There is plenty of evidence of corporate power being used in order to change legislation, create harsher incarceration terms, build more prisons," says Baum. "These corporations have a stake in mass incarceration."

Baum says the Web application is more than just an information site, for the first time, people will be able to automatically scan their investment portfolios and find out if they contain investments in the prison industry. She's hopeful the platform will give investors and consumers the information they need to decide whether or not to support companies making money on mass incarceration.

Baum says a lot of people are already familiar with high-profile private prison companies, such as the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group. But she says this new tool helps expose firms people might not realize operate throughout the industry from transportation and telephone companies, to food and even probation services.

"You can use it in order to upload a list of holdings," says Baum. "Your school, if you're a student or faculty, upload it to our tool, and it will highlight potentially problematic companies."

Baum says the app, called "Investigate," is available on any mobile device or computer connected to the Internet. She adds it also provides in-depth research on companies, including actions other groups have already taken, such as divesting portfolios or boycotts, to encourage corporations to stop profiting from private prisons.

Check in on your investments at afsc.org/investigate.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN