Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Of Professors & Prisons

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)

You might not recognize the name, but it is “the largest private corrections company in the United States.” Have you seen the third season of Orange is the New Black? CCA is the real-life version of the corporation that takes over management at Litchfield Penitentiary and cuts down on cost in overtly stupid ways. It’s a multi-billion dollar behemoth, recognized for its extensive lobbying efforts at the federal level to boost immigrant detention, and in states like Texas to ensure that drug laws remain strict.

In one of their SEC filings they stated the following as a risk factor:
"The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."
Okay, so we’ve established that they run substandard prisons and they lobby for harsher sentencing that typically targets minorities. How much worse could it get?

Well, kids, it can get a lot worse. As it turns out, both the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the Permanent School Fund are invested in CCA. Let me say that again so it sinks in...
Our school and teacher retirement funds are invested in the proliferation of private, for-profit prisons. 
 The largest corporations involved in the private prison industry routinely lobby our state government to create highly punitive laws for minor drug offenses. The enforcement of these laws is subjected unequally on minorities, sending fathers to jail for non-violent crimes like possession of small amounts of marijuana. The children in these (primarily minority) families then grow up in single-parent households, and enter public school significantly behind their peers. Our teachers are then tasked with bringing these children up to speed, a herculean task to say the least, especially considering the anemic resources at their disposal, thanks to our short-sighted legislature.

Let's put this into diagram form to help visualize how completely messed up this really is.
I asked many of my friends who teach, and they had no idea that the TRS was invested in private prisons, which led me to wonder...

Who is responsible for this 'Soylent Green,' dystopian investment strategy?

The Texas Teacher Retirement System, which is the largest public pension program in the United States, is managed by a board of nine trustees. These trustees are appointed by the Texas governor in staggered six-year terms. Only two of the governor's appointments are voted upon by employees of the public school districts.

In other words, this guy determined who is in charge of teachers' retirement funds:


The Permanent Education Fund is managed by the Texas General Land Office. For those who don't remember, last year's election gave this guy the reins:

George P. Bush

His father, Jeb Bush, was Florida Governor when that state privatized their prison system.

His latest presidential campaign blunder was 
his use of the term "Anchor Babies."

Yee-frackin-haw, y'all.

Your friend & ally,
Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

P.S.: Special thanks to Cristin Padgett, who is running for Texas House District 33 and keyed me into the fact that the TRS and PSF were invested in CCA. 

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