Bank of America, the second largest bank in the country, finally breaks its silence about funding private prisons and other immigrant detention facilities through government-commissioned contracts.
“We have decided to exit the relationships we have with companies providing prisoner and immigrant detention services for federal and state governments, as expeditiously as possible,” a Bank of America spokeswoman told the Miami Herald.
“We have had [an] intensive engagement with the limited number of clients we have that are providing these services. We appreciate steps they have taken to properly execute their contractual and humanitarian responsibilities.”
Bank of America’s decision to “exit” the said relationship comes after an onslaught of protests regarding the status and treatment of detainees held in these facilities that are disputed primarily as inhumane and violates humanitarian laws.
“Lacking further legal and policy clarity, and in recognition of the concerns of our employees and stakeholders in the communities we serve, it is our intention to exit these relationships,” adds Bank of America spokesperson.
The report details that the Bank of America’s clients included Caliburn—operator of the Homestead facility in Florida that is running under a government contract—where they provided a $380 million loan to the company and a $75 million revolving credit line. In retrospect, the company is earning $750 a day per child detained in its facility.
However, Caliburn denied the allegation and claimed that they only function as an emergency shelter for immigrant minors who are separated from their families. But, protesters say, Homestead “functions as one. The minors held inside are not allowed to leave.”
Furthermore, other notorious names in the private prison industry that are working with the Bank of America included GEO Group and CoreCivic.
“As shareholders in Bank of America, investors from Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have engaged with executives encouraging them to conduct human rights due diligence, including site visits, to assess the human rights risks and the commitment and capacity of GEO Group, CoreCivic, and Caliburn, to respect the rights of the individuals who are detained or in custody in their facilities,” shared Mary Beth Gallagher, Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment.
Bank of America’s Wednesday announcement also follows presidential candidate and current U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign against private prisons and detention facilities.
“Private prison companies have spent millions to turn our criminal and immigration policies into ones that prioritize making them rich instead of keeping us safe — with terrible consequences. Today I’m announcing my plan to end this private profiteering off of cruelty,” Warren said in a Tweet June 21st.
Protesters and organizations have rallied against the detention of immigrants with the campaign that #FamiliesBelongTogether and has pressured private companies, sectors, shareholders, and political leaders to act on the growing human rights violations that continue to harass families and children.
Furthermore, they have argued that private prisons and detention center are not “based on a ‘need’ to detain more people. Rather, it’s seen as an opportunistic market to create wealth for a few at the expense of others,” Forbes writes. “The private prison industry has spent a staggering $25M on lobbying the government over the past three decades to push for harsher criminal justice and immigration laws and receives over $1B a year — almost $5.5M of taxpayer money a day — in contracts from ICE.
Today, Bank of America now joins other major banks such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, which in late March, announced they would sever ties with the private prison industry.
However, the private prison industry remains to be worth over a billion dollars with banks such Suntrust, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Regions, Fifth Third, Citizens, PNC, Pinnacle Bank, First Tennessee Bank, Synovus Bank, and US Bank all remain to finance the industry.
Beyond banks, the private prison industry is also tied with multiple other sectors relating to food, health care, utilities, and even furniture that’s used in cells. Today, hundreds of Mayfair employees marched out in protest of the company’s adamant decision to refurbish detention centers.
The employees are protesting against the $200,000 government contract Mayfair has and saying that it is not worth the money to penalize children. In reaction, the furniture retailer said that it would donate $100,000 to the American Red Cross to help those in need at the border.