June 11, 2017
By NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer
New York, NY – America has a mass incarceration problem. For too long, we chose ‘tough on crime’ approaches that meant millions of non-violent people – often poor, overwhelmingly of color – were put behind bars. Jails became job-creating economic development tools at the expense of urban communities. Our corrections system wasn’t about rehabilitation at all.
Earlier this week, we did something about it — and I’d like to thank my fellow Trustees at the New York City Pension Funds for taking such a bold step.
We announced that the New York City Pension Funds became the first major public pension system in the country to fully divest from private prison companies. This industry is designed to profit off of mass incarceration and human suffering – it has a special interest in maintaining the failed criminal justice approaches of the past.
Investigations into these private facilities have uncovered real issues across the industry. Private prisons have far higher rates of security and safety incidents compared to public institutions. Many lack sufficient medical care — because it cuts into their bottom line. Some resort to putting inmates in solitary confinement just to alleviate overcrowding. People, as a result, have suffered and died.
These prisons aren’t just morally wrong. In fact, we studied this issue for months and found that investing in private prisons actually has real risks. With ongoing lawsuits and human rights violations, the reputational damage could be enormous. As a result, divesting is in the best interests of pensioners.
My fellow Trustees and I are proud to be the first major fund in the nation to take this step. It’s the right thing to do – financially and morally. And it’s our hope that other cities and states will follow our lead.