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Help Us Take Down the Private Prison Industry

2:25 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

The number of people detained in for-profit prisons has grown by 1,664% in the past twenty years and the human impact has been devastating. Private prisons report some of the most abusive and inhumane conditions — cutting back on staff training, rehabilitative programing, and health care in order to maximize profits. Last year, a federal judge transferred all prisoners out of GEO Group’s Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility after finding it to be a “a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.”

For years industry giants like CCA, GEO Group and MTC have successfully lobbied for legislation that puts more people behind bars, and for longer. But we have the power to stop this. ColorOfChange has just launched our private prison divestment campaign and we need your help.

Check out the email we sent to members today and make sure to join us in asking shareholders and board members to pull their money from this corrupt business. Once you’re done, please share with friends and family to increase our impact.

Dear Member,

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and the private prison industry is making a killing off this broken system. For-profit prison companies get paid for each person that fills their cells — raking in $5 billion in annual revenue.1 Empty beds mean lost profits, so to keep the money flowing the industry spends millions lobbying the government to expand the destructive policies that keep more people behind bars for longer, harsher sentences.2

Tragically, one-third of all Black men will spend part of their lives in prison.3 Meanwhile, for-profit prisons promote and exploit mass incarceration and racial-bias in the criminal justice system — further accelerating our nation’s prison addiction. We can stop this. The prison industry depends on corporate backers for the capital it needs to keep growing,4 and allies in government for contracts that fill their prisons. If we convince enough investors and board members to leave the industry, we can discredit incarceration as a business, bring attention to the harm it creates, and deter public officials from granting contracts to prison companies.

Please join us in urging investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to get out of this exploitative business. We’ll inform them of what they’re involved in, and if they refuse to do what’s right, we’ll hold them publicly accountable.

Federal agencies and state governments contract with three main companies to lock people up: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc., and the Management and Training Corporation (MTC). The top two prison companies, CCA and GEO, are publicly traded and financed by investors, major banks and corporations, who hold shares in the industry. CCA and GEO Group make money by charging a daily rate per body that is sent to them — costing tax payers billions for dangerous, ineffective facilities.5 The industry also makes money by avoiding tax payments.CCA will dodge $70 million dollars in tax payments this year by becoming a real estate investment trust (REIT) and designating their prisons as “residential”.6

In order to maximize profits, prison companies cut back on staff training, medical care, and rehabilitative services — causing assault rates to double in some private prisons.7 A 2010 ACLU lawsuit against CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center cited a management culture so violent the facility is known as the “gladiator school”.8 The industry also maximizes profits by lobbying for and benefiting from laws that put more people in jail. In the 1990′s CCA chaired the Criminal Justice Task force of shadowy corporate bill-mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which passed “3 strikes” and “truth in sentencing” laws that continue to send thousands of people to prison on very harsh sentences.9 Black folks are disproportionately subjected to these uniquely harsh conditions due to our extreme overrepresentation in the private prison system.10

In many parts of the country, the political tide is shifting against the for-profit prison industry. Earlier this summer, Kentucky, Texas, Idaho, and Mississippi broke ties with CCA after reports of chronic understaffing, inmate death, and rising costs to the states became undeniable.11 In April, New Hampshire rejected all private prison bids because the prison corporations could not show that they would follow legal requirements for safely housing prisoners.12 And, there is growing opposition to California Governor Jerry Brown’s misguided plan to comply with a Supreme Court order to alleviate the State’s prison overcrowding crisis by moving thousands of prisoners into private facilities, at a public cost of $1 billion over 3 years.13

The private prison industry should not control who is locked up, for how long, and at what price. For-profit prison companies have investors that cut across many industries. Some of these investors — wealthy individuals, major banks and financial companies — know exactly what they’re doing. But with enough pressure, they might reconsider whether it’s worth being known as profiting from exploitation and racism in the criminal justice system.

Profiting off the brutality and discrimination of incarceration is shameful. Please join us in calling on the investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to get out of this corrupt business.

Thanks and Peace,

–Rashad, Matt, Arisha, Aimée, William, Lyla and the rest of the team
September 4th, 2013


1. “A Boom Behind Bars,” Bloomberg Businessweek, 03-17-2011

2. “Gaming the System,” (.pdf) Justice Policy Institute, 06-01-2011

3. “1 in 3 Black Men Go To Prison? The 10 Most Disturbing Facts About Racial Inequality in the U.S. Criminal Justice System,” AlterNet, 03-17-2012

4. “Private Prison Profits Skyrocket as Executives Assure Investors of Growing Offender Population,” ThinkProgress, 05-09-2013

5. “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,” (.pdf) ACLU, 11-01-2011

6. “The Legacy of Chattel Slavery: Private Prisons Blur the Line Between Real People and Real Estate With New IRS Property Gambit,” Truthout, 02-04-2013

7.”The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About 30 Years of Corrections Corporation of America,” (.pdf) Grassroots Leadership, 06-01-2013

8. “ACLU Lawsuit Charges Idaho Prison Officials Promote Rampant Violence,” ACLU, 03-11-2010

9. “Too Good to be True: Private Prisons in America,” (.pdf) 01-01-2012

10. “The Color of Corporate Corrections: Overrepresentation of People of Color in the Private Prison Industry,” Prison Legal News, 08-30-2013

11. “Three States Dump Major Private Prison Company in One Month” ThinkProgress, 06-21-2013

12.”New Hampshire Rejects All Private Prison Bids,” ThinkProgress, 04-05-2013

13. “Gov. Brown’s misguided private prison plan” SF Gate, 08-28-2013

- See more at: tells the NY Senate: Stop unlawful, racially-biased marijuana arrests

4:31 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

Today, ColorOfChange and partners including Drug Policy Alliance launched a campaign calling on members of the New York State Legislature to stop unlawful, discriminatory marijuana arrests.

Black and Latino New Yorkers experience a different New York from that experienced by their White counterparts. By supporting legislation that’s now backed by Gov. Cuomo and a bipartisan coalition, lawmakers in Albany can keep young people of color from being saddled with criminal records that can exclude them from school, work and other important opportunities.

Check out a moving video on this topic here, and read the email we sent to our members after the jump. Please join the campaign here. Read the rest of this entry →

Tell State Farm, McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson: ‘Stop supporting ALEC’

5:36 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

ALEC CROW - 21st Century Disenfranchisement

(Photo by DonkeyHotey via flickr)


UPDATE: ColorOfChange responds to reports that McDonald’s has ended its membership in ALEC.

Today, State FarmJohnson & Johnson and McDonald’s have all been receiving phone calls from ColorOfChange members and allies. Hundreds of people are making calls to the three new corporations to demand that the companies stop funding ALEC, the conservative policy group behind voter suppression and “Shoot First” bills. In Florida, the so-called “Stand your Ground” law — the prototype for ALEC’s model legislation — has been used to defend the actoins of Trayvon Martin’s killer.

Last week, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Kraft Foods all announced that their relationships with ALEC had drawn to a close. And yesterday, our members started contacting AT&T, with the good folks at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) joining us in the wake of their own victory with the Gates Foundation.

This campaign is on fire, and we are so excited by all that you’re doing to support.

Will you help us hold State FarmJohnson & Johnson and  AT&T accountable for supporting voter suppression and Kill at Will bills? Please take a moment to call and demand that they stop supporting ALEC.

Hold Wall Street banks accountable

5:15 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

Today we launched a campaign calling on President Obama and Attorney General Holder to stand up to big banks and push for a full investigation of those responsible for the foreclosure crisis that devastated Black wealth. Check out the email we sent to our more than 800,000 members today and join the campaign here.

Millions Disenfranchised

4:31 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

National Voting Rights Museum and Institute (Photo: iamthebestartist, flickr)

National Voting Rights Museum and Institute (Photo: iamthebestartist, flickr)

Today, launched a campaign calling for corporations to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has drafted and distributed model legislation that appears to be the inspiration for restrictive and discriminatory voter ID bills advanced in numerous state legislatures this year, bills that would require voters to produce specified types of photo identification at the polls.

Voter ID laws unreasonably increase barriers to voting access, with a disproportionate impact on black people and other people of color, young people, the elderly and the poor. The new laws will disenfranchise as many as 5 million Americans.

Below is the email that we sent to our more than 800,000 members today.

Dear Member,

For years, the right wing has been trying to stop Black people, other people of color, young people, and the elderly from voting for partisan gain — and now some of America’s biggest companies are helping them do it.

These companies have helped pass discriminatory voter ID legislation by funding a right wing policy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Voter ID bills linked to ALEC have already passed in seven states,1 and similar voter ID bills have been introduced in 27 other states.2

Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws claim they want to reduce voter fraud (individuals voting illegally, or voting twice). But such fraud almost never actually occurs, and never in amounts large enough to affect the result of elections.3 What is clear is that voter ID laws prevent large numbers of eligible voters from casting a ballot, and could disenfranchise up to 5 million people.4 Read the rest of this entry →

Voter ID Laws: The New Poll Tax

10:52 am in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

For anyone who thought legal disenfranchisement was a thing of the past, think again. The 2012 campaign season — which will pick up speed in the wake of the elections held around the country today — may well bring the harshest attack on voting rights in decades. As evidenced by a new video released today by the Advancement Project and Brave New Films, a blitz of new voter identification restrictions has flooded state legislatures, threatening to disenfranchise millions of voters who don’t have the money, transportation or paperwork to secure necessary IDs.

A report from the Brennan Center for Justice finds that the majority of these voters are from groups traditionally viewed as part of the Democratic base. But whatever their party affiliation, the new legislation stands to limit the participation of millions of African-American, Latino, young and elderly voters.

The numbers don’t lie. According to a report from our partners at the Advancement Project, the new laws could disenfranchise 21 million Americans and cost taxpayers $20 million in free IDs. This at a time when state budgets are already strapped. Last month, one news report explained how those targeted by this new wave of restrictions are the same populations that are particularly vulnerable to political, social and economic neglect. For example, a quarter of Black citizens nationwide do not hold the proper state-issued photo ID required under the new state laws. What used to be achieved through poll taxes and literacy tests is now the work of conservative state legislators and governors. In South Carolina, 61-year-old Willie Blair, an African-American farmer, was recently featured on NPR describing the bureaucratic nightmare to which he’s been exposed because of the new restrictions. Read the rest of this entry →

Tell MSNBC: Fire Pat Buchanan

3:08 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

Pat Buchanan and Ari Melber on MSNBC (Photo: flickrphotosaccount)

Pat Buchanan and Ari Melber on MSNBC (Photo: flickrphotosaccount)

Yesterday, launched a campaign calling on MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC News President Steve Capus to fire Pat Buchanan. Buchanan, who has long used his position as a political analyst for MSNBC to spout bigoted rhetoric, was interviewed on a white nationalist radio program recently to promote his new book.

In just one day, nearly 46,000 people have signed onto the campaign. Please join us.

Below is an email we sent to our members.

Dear member,

For years, Pat Buchanan has passed off white supremacist ideology as legitimate mainstream political commentary. And MSNBC continues to pay him and give him a platform on national TV to do it.

Buchanan has just published a book which says that increasing racial diversity is a threat to this country and will mean the “End of White America.”1 This weekend, to promote his book, he went on a white supremacist radio show whose host has said things like “MLK’s dream is our nightmare,” and “interracial sex is white genocide.”2

Buchanan has the right to express his views, but he’s not entitled to a platform that lets him broadcast bigotry and hate to millions. If MSNBC wants to be seen as a trusted, mainstream source of news and commentary, it needs to fire Buchanan now.

Please join us in calling on MSNBC to fire Pat Buchanan:

Here are a few examples of what Buchanan has said in the past: Read the rest of this entry →

Troy Davis is dead; the movement continues

12:38 am in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

At 11:08 pm Wednesday, the state of Georgia killed Troy Davis. Just before he was executed, Troy maintained his innocence, urged people to dig deeper into the case to find the truth, and said “For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls.” It’s a tragic day for Troy, for his family, and for equality, fairness, and justice.

It’s hard to know what to say at a time like this. In this moment, and in the days and weeks before Troy’s execution, we’ve felt all kinds of things — anger, sadness, inspiration, hope and hopelessness. This is a time to mourn and remember Troy, to contemplate the profound loss we’re facing, to send love and support to Troy’s family and friends. It’s incredibly important to take the time to spiritually and emotionally care for Troy’s family and the amazing community that has arisen to support Troy — and it feels hard to muster the energy to do much more than that.

But before he died, Troy told us that this was about more than him — and he called on those of us who have fought against his execution to continue fighting for justice, even if we weren’t successful in saving his life. Now is also an important moment to take stock of what’s brought us to this point — the criminal justice system that allowed this to happen, and the movement we’ve built to fight for Troy and others facing injustice and oppression at the hands of that system.

Race, the criminal justice system, and the death penalty

At every stage of the criminal justice system, Black people and other minorities face inequality and discrimination. We all know about people who’ve been treated unfairly by police or by the courts. When the entire system treats Black people unequally, it means that the death penalty is applied unequally too. Troy Davis’ case underscores the way in which this systemic inequality can lead to a tragic miscarriage of justice.

In most cases, people who’ve been treated unfairly or wrongly convicted have some chance to correct the injustice. People who have been mistreated by the police can sue them. People who are wrongly serving time can be granted new trials, can be released from prison, and are sometimes entitled to compensation. As we all know, the safeguards that can correct abuse by the criminal justice system often fail, and rampant inequality persists. Usually, people can at least keep trying.

But there’s no way to correct a death sentence. If Troy Davis were serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, he could continue to press the legal system to grant him a fair trial — but because the death penalty exists, he will not have that opportunity.

Troy Davis’ case has sparked a national conversation about the death penalty. In the past, much of the debate around the death penalty has focused on the morality of killing people as a legal punishment — a very important question that brings out a lot of strong opinions. But even if we completely leave aside the question whether or not it can ever be right for the government to punish a murderer by killing them, there’s an entirely different debate to be had — whether or not we can have the death penalty and actually avoid the possibility of killing innocent people. In a criminal justice system that routinely misidentifies Black suspects and disproportionately punishes Black people, Black folks are more likely to be wrongfully executed.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the death penalty has been used to kill innocent people many times. Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row because of evidence that they were wrongly convicted. Troy Davis is one of many people who were executed despite serious questions about their guilt, and he’s called on his supporters to continue working to end the death penalty.

A group of NAACP organizers went to visit Troy in prison yesterday, and NAACP’s Robert Rooks said this about the visit:

For someone that was facing death the very next day, he was just full of life and wanted to spend time talking to the younger staff, the interns, giving them direction and hope and asking them to hold onto God. And he challenged them. He challenged them by saying, “You have a choice. You can either fold up your bags after tomorrow and go home, or you can stand and continue this fight.” He said it doesn’t—it didn’t begin with Troy Davis, and this won’t end if he is executed today. He just asked us all just to continue to fight to end the death penalty, if in fact he’s executed.

A powerful movement

For years, ColorOfChange members have been an important part of a growing movement to stop Troy Davis’ execution. Hundreds of phone calls from ColorOfChange members to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole helped delay Davis’ execution twice. Over the past year, there’s been a huge outpouring of support for Davis from ColorOfChange members — more than 100,000 of us have signed petitions, and we raised more than $30,000 to run radio ads in Georgia calling for justice for Troy.

And we’ve been part of an even bigger movement — NAACP, Amnesty International, National Action Network,, and others have all been a major part of the fight for Troy Davis, and there are now over close to a million petition signatures overall. Prominent people from all across the political spectrum have spoken out: members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr, and former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher.

This movement couldn’t stop Davis’ execution — but it’s a movement that won’t die with Troy Davis. There’s no better way to honor Troy’s memory than to keep fighting for justice. in Chicago: Justice for the Cook County Ten

5:17 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

This week, I joined Chicago-area members to deliver more than 66,000 petition signatures to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. The petition demands that State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez immediately acknowledge the innocence of 10 falsely accused Black men (known as the Cook County 10) and agree to vacate the convictions of nine who were convicted for crimes they didn’t commit.

Terrill Swift, one of the men who was coerced into falsely confessing to a crime, and his family joined us for the delivery. Please check out video from the day’s events:

Swift was paroled last year after spending 15 years in an Illinois prison for rape and murder. DNA testing performed during the original investigation indicated his innocence. Earlier this month, he told Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Mills, “If I was guilty, I would have done my time and tried to proceed with my life. But I can’t continue to walk around like a convicted felon when I didn’t do nothing. So I’m fighting it.” Read the rest of this entry →

Tell to Ban Discrimination Against Unemployed Workers

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

There’s a growing problem with companies that refuse to hire people who don’t already have a job. With unemployment at 9%, this kind of discrimination affects a huge number of people. And it hits Black communities particularly hard, as more than 15% of African Americans are unemployed.

Our friends at USAction launched a campaign asking job listing websites like to ban ads that discriminate against the unemployed. But not only did refuse to ban these ads — they actually threatened legal action against USAction for raising the issue. Other job listing websites have been completely silent. It’s outrageous.

Today ColorOfChange members are joining USAction,, and CREDO Action in calling on and other job listing websites to stop publishing ads which discriminate against the unemployed. Please join us.

From the email we sent to our members this morning:

At a time when more than 9% of Americans are out of work, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, no one should have to have a job in order to get a job. This type of discrimination hurts everyone who’s looking for work. But Black people are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as White folks. And Latinos are also unemployed at a higher rate than Whites.4 Whether it’s intended or not, discrimination against the unemployed is discrimination against Black and Latino Americans.

Democrats in the House and Senate are crafting legislation that would make this kind of discrimination illegal. We’ll keep an eye on that legislation and let you know how you can help get it passed.

But right now, without any law to prevent discrimination against the unemployed, job listing websites could do more than anyone else to stop this practice. These companies are supposed to be in the business of helping people find jobs. But by continuing to publish help wanted ads that say “you must be currently employed to apply,” they’re enabling a practice which makes it even harder to recover for the people who are struggling the hardest in this economy.

Read the rest of this entry →