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New Tool Exposes Companies Profiting from Mass Incarceration

The movement to end mass incarceration in the U.S. has a new digital tool for its toolbox. Credit: sakhorn38/iStockphoto.com
The movement to end mass incarceration in the U.S. has a new digital tool for its toolbox. Credit: sakhorn38/iStockphoto.com
November 2, 2015

DENVER - Human rights advocates are deploying a new digital tool to help convince corporations to stop profiting from mass incarceration. More than 2.4 million people are currently behind bars in the U.S., more than any other nation according to the American Friends Service Committee.

Dalit Baum, AFSC's director of economic activism, is set to unveil the committee's new platform called Investigate at the annual Sustainable Responsible Impact Investments conference this week in Colorado.

She points out that 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 not just an information site. She says for the first time, people will be able to automatically scan their investment portfolios and find out if they are invested 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 or 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 Investigate platform is available on any mobile device or computer connected to the Internet. She says the program 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.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO