Saturday, June 6, 2015

New Jersey Private Prison Divestment Meeting, Newark, 5/20/2015

Three founding members of Decarcerate the Garden State attended an initial meeting called by the Responsible Endowments Coalition with the goal of launching a prison divestment effort in NJ.  There was an exchange of ideas about the divestment idea and we also presented the action plan of Decarcerate the Garden State and distributed our paper The NJ Decarcerator.  In NJ, the immigrant detention facilities are privatized but the state prison facilities are managed by NJ Department of Corrections directly and the county jails are managed by the counties.  It was also represented at the meeting that US Senator from NJ Robert Menendez and  Congress man Bill Pascrell receive campaign financing from the prison privatization firms.  We will be looking into how that has influenced their positions on matters of mass incarceration and immigrant detention.

While this committee is taking a differing approach to fighting mass incarceration from the approach our efforts have taken, (see recent article) we look forward to opportunities for mutual support, co-sponsorship of educational activities and other events as well as exploring potential for building greater unity between the movements against mass incarceration and mass detention of immigrants.

Below are the minutes from the meeting.  For more information about this effort, contact:

Nina Mariella Macapinlac
Responsible Endowments Coalition, Coordinator of Alumni Organizing 
Anakbayan NJ, Vice Chairperson

They are copied in below:
New Jersey Private Prison Divestment Meeting
1.       Daniel Carrillo (Enlace)
2.       Ruben Mendez (Decarcerate the Garden State)
3.       Dwayne Paul
4.       Bob Witanek (Decarcerate the Garden State)
5.       Ian Trupin (Responsible Endowments Coalition)
6.       Nina Macapinlac (Responsible Endowments Coalition)
7.       Renata Mauriz (Wind of the Spirit Coalition; NJYIL)
8.       Jorge Torres (Unidad Latina en Accion)
9.       Ana Bonilla-Martinez (WotS/NJYIL)
10.   Tamika Darden-Thomas (NYOSCC)
11.   Kunal Sharma
12.   Tyrone Barnes
13.   Vera Parra
14.   Cassandra Dock (Newark United Against Violence)
15.  Rita Dentino (Casa Freehold)
16.  Alix Nguefack (AFSC) 


  • Intros
  • Overview of agenda and goals
  • Video on the Issue
  • Initial Reactions
  • Overview of Campaign Strategy
  • Power Analysis/ Potential Targets [if necessary]
  • Discussion



Overview of agenda - Jorge
  • go around, say your name, organization, something exciting that’s happened to you in last week
Context for Meeting
  • Nina: REC is a multi-issue organization based in Brooklyn that works on prison divestment on universities. Also fossil fuel divestment, community reinvestment. Also in Anakbayan NJ which is a progressive Filipino youth and student organization based in Jersey City. Wanted to bring prison divestment to NJ. Been in preliminary conversations with ULA and other organizations, had a phone meeting couple months ago. Thank you Alix and AFSC for hosting us.
Watched Geo Group Action Video (produced by Jorge)
  • This was an action from our National Prison Divestment Convening in Florida, happened only a few weeks ago May 3 to 5. Geo Group headquartered in Boca Raton
  • First day was workshops, second day action, and third day strategy
  • At least 170 people went to the National Convening, had folks from anti-mass incarceration orgs from around the country

Overview of Campaign
  • Enlace began campaign in 2010, targeting private prison companies Geo Group and CCA
  • Multi-racial coalition building (i.e. Black, Brown, Asian, LGBTQ identities together)
    • Many different orgs that we work with, refer to slide
  • The PD campaign is about breaking the lobbying power of the private prison industry.
  • Targeting private prisons through divestment is a strategy to help broaden and escalate the movement for decarceration. Prison abolition and anti-mass incarceration work do not stop at divestment.

  • How can we bring this to NJ?
    • Alex: we have real concrete targets here. Best if we can focus on one that is feasible.
    • Daniel: can work with groups in localized campaigns, like Newark or a specific college
    • Bob: Decarcerate the Garden State has 6 point plan of action. 1) leg; 2) media; 3) tour; 4) study group… Focused on all forms of incarceration, would be willing to support, though our focus isn’t just private prisons. Also looking at lobbying role of police unions, bail bonds industry, and other prison industrial complex profiteers. New Jersey is known for a somewhat lower incarceration rate than many states, but the racial bias is one of the most extreme. Pushing NJ Decarceration Act that would bring about 50% decarceration rate in 4 years. Have been trying to include immigration focus in our events, and see this as opportunity to strengthen that. Invite people to contribute to blog

How Private Prisons Make Their Money
  • Spend millions of dollars every year lobbying the government for policies that people into jail
  • Depend on institutional investors to lobby the government to pass laws that criminalize communities
  • Most of these institutional investors are big financial institutions like the big banks
  •  Some cases, biggest investors deploy lobbyists. For ex, CCA and JPMorgan&Chase shared the same lobbying firm McBee Strategic Consulting
  • PERKS: Federal contracts, req 90% of beds full, Geo & CCA together control 73% of the private prisons

International Aspect
  • Private prisons can be international
  • G4S is also BDS target, provides surveillance equipment to Israeli prisons that illegally detail Palestinians
  • Super prison model exported by US, “prison imperialism:
    • Started with “Program for the Improvement of the Colombian Prison System” 2000 – spread to Afghanistan, Iraq, Honduras, Guantanamo Bay, Mexico

Targets: private prison companies, local institutions, million shares club, politicians
  • REIT status: prison companies and their investors get major tax breaks by being counted as real estate companies.
  • Possibility: Sen. Bob Menendez is on the committee that gave private prisons REIT status, and can take it away if pressured

  • Hundreds of millions divested, including Principal Financial, the City of Portland and the United Methodist Church

  • Ana: what about products of prison labor? How can we find that out?
  • Jorge: we’re in a moment of momentum with #BlackLivesMatter and #Not1More, but need to figure out what local strategies make sense for us here, what are shared targets?
  • Nina: situation where (better banks action at state pension fund meeting)
  • Cassandra: That work with Roberto and NJCU? We work with them

Possible next steps:
  • Alix suggestion- Have daytime retreat to have in-depth discussion on targets and power mapping

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