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Dava Nakayama / CC BY 2.0

Philadelphia just became the latest city to divest from private prisons. 

On Oct. 26, the Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirements voted 6-1 to liquidate its $1.2 million in stocks in three companies involved in the private prison industry, Philly.com reported. 

“There have been documented instances of bureaucratic and judicial corruption, dangerous and unhealthy living conditions, and human rights violations in many of these facilities,” the board’s resolution stated.

The board withdrew its investments from three organizations: the GEO group, CoreCivic, and G4S. Founded by former FBI agent  George Wackenhut, the GEO Group funds at least 20 private prison facilities in Pennsylvania. This includes the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware Country where 12 inmates have died because of negligence between 2008 and 2012, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. One of these inmates was Thomas Bryant, whose family later sued the GEO group for neglect and maltreatment.  

Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown supported Philadelphia’s decision. 

“I am proud that the board has taken this tangible step to ensure that the city will no longer invest its pension dollars into an industry with an exhaustive track record of civil rights abuses,” she told Philly.com. 

Philadelphia joins other cities such as Cincinnati and New York in divesting from private prisons. In recent years, there have also been calls for individual organizations and even universities to do the same. 

In 2015, Columbia University became the first American university to divest from the private prison industry, following a campaign by the student-run group, Columbia Prison Divest, CNN reported

In 2016, students at Princeton University petitioned the university administration to divest from private prisons. And earlier this year, the Harvard College Project for Justice circulated a petition calling on the university to divest its approximately $23 million in shares in Vanguard, a mutual fund that owns stock in private prison companies.  

In 2015, Penn Divest from Displacement called on the Penn Board of Trustees to “withdraw investment from companies that profit off displacement,” including G4S and the Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic), but the Board of Trustees never addressed those requests directly. 

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