Cincinnati Pension Board working to divest private prison industry holdings worth $2.5M

Updated: Aug. 30, 2017 at 4:33 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Cincinnati councilman says the city is taking steps to divest its pension fund from the private prison industry.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld's office uncovered pension fund holdings that include indirect exposure to private prison companies CoreCivic and GEO Group, and direct exposure to G4S, to the tune of 598,137 shares worth $2,535,964.99.

Sittenfeld was joined Wednesday on the front steps of Cincinnati City Hall by the ACLU of Ohio; the Ohio Justice & Policy Center; the Cincinnati NAACP; the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Action Network; former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland; Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley; fellow Cincinnati Councilmembers; the Ohio Civil Services Employees Association; the AMOS Project; and community members and criminal justice reform advocates.

Sittenfeld's policy directive, supported by a majority of council and the mayor, calls for the City Pension Board, which council helps to appoint and oversee, to report back with a divestment plan in 45 days.

"If you a want glimpse into a person or a city's values, then follow the money," Sittenfeld said. "And the money that flows into the private prison business is a stain on our community. We should not and we will not use public funds to prop up this immoral enterprise."

The Cincinnati action mirrors legislation passed earlier this year by New York City, which liquidated $48 million worth of stock it had tied up in private prisons.

The City of Cincinnati is the only city in Ohio with its own pension system.

The U.S. spends $80 billion on incarceration each year.

Below is the council's policy motion:

WHEREAS the Cincinnati City Council has deep concerns about the use of private prisons in the United States, including creating a profit incentive for incarceration; endangering prison staff, inmates and the public; exacerbating the country's mass incarceration problem and related racial disparities; and representing an expensive and less effective use of taxpayer funds;

WHEREAS recently the New York City pension fund voted to divest from private prisons, and Cincinnati wishes to do the same; and to call on other cities and states to maximize the power of divestment by also withdrawing funds from the private industry;

WE MOVE that it is the desire of the policy making body of the City of Cincinnati that the Pension Board, to the fullest extent possible and consistent with fiduciary obligations, divest from and set a policy moving forward to not invest in companies that derive at least 20% of their revenue from private prisons, including the following specific companies: GEO Group, G4S and CoreCivic;

WE MOVE that CRS report back to Council within 45 days with a plan for enacting this policy directive.

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