Ban The Box Victory In California: Felon Struggle Will Change; Let Work and Pray!!

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ban the box

900,000 members strong and growing

Last week, after sustained pressure from thousands of ColorOfChange members, California Governor Jerry signed “Ban the Box” legislation. The law prohibits public sector employers from making deeply prejudicial inquiries about past convictions during initial stages of the hiring process. It’s a monumental victory that we should all celebrate.

But the work to eliminate unfair barriers for formerly incarcerated folks in every state continues. And its up to each of us to make sure that our friends and family are aware of some exciting opportunities to organize in our home states. By helping us grow our community, we can ensure that the next time we secure a victory — like the one we had last week — our friends and family are organizing and celebrating with us.

My wife and I are still in hot pursuit along with various proactive individuals to help us and we help them with this struggle. There is so much injustice in this industry and it all is associated with capitalism off the backs of human life. People are more valuable than a bottle or can or computer screen or television you decide needs to be recycled. Please pray for us to get our business opened to keep people out of jail once they get out. We want to open Second Chance Alliance to educate and empower the very people like us who are being denied a second chance because our caste status doesn’t render us valuable.

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and the private prison industry is making a killing off this broken system. For-profit prison companies get paid for each person that fills their cells — raking in $5 billion in annual revenue.1 Empty beds mean lost profits, so to keep the money flowing the industry spends millions lobbying the government to expand the destructive policies that keep more people behind bars for longer, harsher sentences.2

Tragically, one-third of all Black men will spend part of their lives in prison.3 Meanwhile, for-profit prisons promote and exploit mass incarceration and racial-bias in the criminal justice system — further accelerating our nation’s prison addiction. We can stop this. The prison industry depends on corporate backers for the capital it needs to keep growing,4 and allies in government for contracts that fill their prisons. If we convince enough investors and board members to leave the industry, we can discredit incarceration as a business, bring attention to the harm it creates, and deter public officials from granting contracts to prison companies.

Please join us in urging investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to get out of this exploitative business. We’ll inform them of what they’re involved in, and if they refuse to do what’s right, we’ll hold them publicly accountable.

Federal agencies and state governments contract with three main companies to lock people up: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc., and the Management and Training Corporation (MTC). The top two prison companies, CCA and GEO, are publicly traded and financed by investors, major banks and corporations, who hold shares in the industry. CCA and GEO Group make money by charging a daily rate per body that is sent to them — costing tax payers billions for dangerous, ineffective facilities.5 The industry also makes money by avoiding tax payments. CCA will dodge $70 million dollars in tax payments this year by becoming a real estate investment trust (REIT) and designating their prisons as “residential”.6

In order to maximize profits, prison companies cut back on staff training, medical care, and rehabilitative services — causing assault rates to double in some private prisons.7 A 2010 ACLU lawsuit against CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center cited a management culture so violent the facility is known as the “gladiator school”.8 The industry also maximizes profits by lobbying for and benefiting from laws that put more people in jail. In the 1990’s CCA chaired the Criminal Justice Task force of shadowy corporate bill-mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which passed “3 strikes” and “truth in sentencing” laws that continue to send thousands of people to prison on very harsh sentences.9 Black folks are disproportionately subjected to these uniquely harsh conditions due to our extreme overrepresentation in the private prison system.10

In many parts of the country, the political tide is shifting against the for-profit prison industry. Earlier this summer, Kentucky, Texas, Idaho, and Mississippi broke ties with CCA after reports of chronic understaffing, inmate death, and rising costs to the states became undeniable.11 In April, New Hampshire rejected all private prison bids because the prison corporations could not show that they would follow legal requirements for safely housing prisoners.12 And, there is growing opposition to California Governor Jerry Brown’s misguided plan to comply with a Supreme Court order to alleviate the State’s prison overcrowding crisis by moving thousands of prisoners into private facilities, at a public cost of $1 billion over 3 years.13

The private prison industry should not control who is locked up, for how long, and at what price. For-profit prison companies have investors that cut across many industries. Some of these investors — wealthy individuals, major banks and financial companies — know exactly what they’re doing. But with enough pressure, they might reconsider whether it’s worth being known as profiting from exploitation and racism in the criminal justice system.

Profiting off the brutality and discrimination of incarceration is shameful. Please join us in calling on the investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to get out of this corrupt business.

UPDATE: Since Black Friday, tens of thousands of ColorOfChange members signed a petition and hundreds have made calls asking the Walmart Board of Directors to meet with workers to improve working conditions. Thus far, Walmart has not responded. Please share this image to show Walmart that you stand with workers: urge Walmart’s Board of Directors to come to the table and put an end to unfair labor practices.

For over a year, workers have asked Walmart’s Board of Directors to work with them to improve the company’s notoriously exploitative labor practices. To date, Walmart workers brave enough to speak up about their harsh working conditions have been slapped with retaliatory cutbacks on hours and even firings. If Walmart continues to refuse to meet with workers and take concrete steps to improve conditions, workers throughout the company’s vast operations will walk off the job on Black Friday, November 23rd. By supporting Walmart workers in the fight for good jobs and a decent working environment, we can help raise the standard for the entire retail industry and show Walmart executives that there’s a price to pay for exploiting its workforce.


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