Prison Free Funds Exposes Investments in Mutual Funds Supporting Prison Industrial Complex

San Francisco, California, UNITED STATES

Berkeley, CA, Aug. 12, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As You Sow released today its seventh Invest Your Values mutual fund and ETF educational tool. Prison Free Funds is the latest issue area to join the free, online platform that enables individual and institutional investors to know what they own. Prison Free Funds exposes prison industrial complex companies embedded in mutual funds and empowers investors to opt-out of economic systems of oppression and exploitation. 

As we continually and collectively awaken to the systemic inequalities that exist in our country, there has never been a more critical time to take action. Modern day slavery is still alive in the form of for-profit prison systems, immigration detention centers, and the borders industry which disproportionately affect Black people and other people of color. 

“Companies with the prison industrial complex embedded in their 401(k) plans are forcing their employees to profit from racist policies in mass incarceration systems,” Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, said. “It’s time for employees to tell their plan administrators that they want their investments to align with their values and to provide full transparency for all holdings in their plans.”

For-profit firms have flooded money into prison and detention center infrastructure — and lobby for harsher policing and longer sentencing, even for non-violent offenders. Mass incarceration is particularly devastating for poor communities, immigrants, people of color, and their families. Inmates work for pennies per hour while their families pay exorbitant fees to keep them supplied with bare necessities. Powerful, private equity interests and corporations reap enormous profits.

Since 2016, As You Sow and American Friends Service Committee have partnered to produce financial research on investments in state violence through companies involved in mass incarceration, immigrant detention and surveillance, and the border industry.

“When we first published our Investigate Prisons Screen five years ago, we wanted to encourage investors to look beyond private prison operators and expand the conversation to include the entire criminal punishment system: the phone services providers, the e-carceration companies, the bail bond insurers, the financiers, the prison labor profiteers,” said Dalit Baum, director of Economic Activism at American Friends Service Committee

“Two years later, we added to our research the industries of immigrant detention and deportations, border security, and mass surveillance, which are all used to criminalize and terrorize Black and brown communities. We created the Investigate rating system to score the companies’ involvement in these harmful systems. We are very excited to partner with As You Sow on Prison Free Funds. We hope that this new tool will make our information accessible to new audiences and help ethical investors divest from the prison industrial complex.”

By using Prison Free Funds, anyone invested in a mutual fund or ETF is able to harness their economic power to invest with their values and stop profiting from the prison industrial complex.

“For five years, NorthStar has pursued disclosure of prison labor in the supply chain of U.S. companies through direct engagement,” Julie Goodridge, CEO of NorthStar Asset Management, said. “As we seek to detangle some of the complexities of the prison industrial complex, our work also pursues racial justice, equal rights, and dignity for incarcerated workers. While the system remains obscure, we’re proud to be part of Prison Free Funds as it begins to offer investors insight into how they may be unknowingly benefiting from this inherently unjust system.”

Behar agrees: “Now is the time for investors to know what they own and make sure their investments align with their values.”

Prison Free Funds is As You Sow’s seventh Invest Your Values online educational tool, joining Fossil Free Funds, Gender Equality Funds, Deforestation Free Funds, Tobacco Free Funds, Weapon Free Funds, and Gun Free Funds.

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As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. As You Sow does not provide investment, financial planning, legal, or tax advice. Click here to use As You Sow’s shareholder resolution tracker. Click here for our legal disclaimer.


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