We Love This Song: Private Prison Stocks Drop After Biden Win
Last week, many, many stocks went up in anticipation of Wall Street expecting a Biden win. As Quartz reports, this was likely due to "expectations for greater stability from the White House and the possibility of a large stimulus package boost[ing] sectors including consumer staples."
But not every sector got a boost.
What did not do very well were the stocks prices of private prison companies, almost definitely because getting rid of them is on Joe Biden's campaign platform. GEO group, one of the largest private prison companies in the nation, dropped 14 percent, and CoreCivic went down 19 percent. While that will probably come as a disappointment to the kind of people who would own or invest in private prisons, it's a good thing for, well, pretty much everyone else. It's a good thing for us as a country.
Via Mother Jones:
On an earnings call on October 29, GEO Group CEO George Zoley acknowledged his company's political volatility. "The current political rhetoric and mischaracterization of our role as a government services provider has created these concerns regarding our future access to capital," Zoley said. But he argued that the company has historically thrived under both Republican and Democratic administrations due to the federal government's reliance on private immigration detention. "As long as there's a policy of border enforcement," he told investors, "we will continue to play a role in supporting that policy."
Despite their bipartisan rhetoric, the prison companies' preference in this election cycle was clear. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, prison industry PACs, employees, and their families shelled out a record $2.5 million in campaign donations—mostly to Republicans, with Trump the top recipient. Zoley personally gave $200,000 to the Trump Victory PAC over the last two years.
They may have bipartisan rhetoric, but they do not have bipartisan support. Part of the reason this is such a good goal for the Biden administration is the fact that Americans of all political stripes really are feeling increasingly gross about the prison industrial complex as a whole. The segment of the population that wants three strikes laws, mandatory minimums, people in jail for non-violent drug offenses, excessive sentencing is shrinking. Even the number of people who prefer the death penalty over life imprisonment is shrinking. The United States prison system has become an embarrassment and there is broad bipartisan support for tackling it.
A 2017 study funded by the ACLU found that:
- 91 percent of Americans say that the criminal justice system has problems that need fixing.
- 71 percent say it is important to reduce the prison population in America, including 87 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Independents, and 57 percent of Republicans — including 52 percent of Trump voters.
- 2 in 3 Americans (68 percent) would be more likely to vote for an elected official if the candidate supported reducing the prison population and using the savings to reinvest in drug treatment and mental health programs, including 65 percent of Trump voters. -72 percent of Americans would be more likely to vote for an elected official who supports eliminating mandatory minimum laws. - 84 percent of Americans believe that people with mental health disabilities belong in mental health programs instead of prison.
- 71 percent of Americans agree that incarceration is often counterproductive to public safety, since "sending someone to prison for a long sentence increases the chances that he or she will commit another crime when they get out because prison doesn't do a good job of rehabilitating problems like drug addiction and mental illness." This includes 68 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Trump voters.
- The majority of Americans recognize racial bias in the criminal justice system — only one in three agree that Black people are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
I was unable to find any actual statistics for support for and opposition to private prisons, but it seems really unlikely that there's a lot of people in the "YAY PROFITING OFF OF MASS INCARCERATION!" camp. The tide has been turning against them for years now, and those who own private prisons have been increasingly aware of this, which is why they've been investing instead in parole services, electronic monitoring, etc. in the last few years.
Private prisons are far from the only problem in our criminal justice system, or even in the prison system — only about 8.2 percent of the regular prison population is held in them — but Americans don't feel too good about mass incarceration in our country, and we certainly don't feel good about people profiting off of it. Hopefully that will extend to private companies that do not necessarily run private prisons but profit off of our prison system just the same.
And that should go for ICE as well, where 70 percent of detained immigrants are held in private facilities, although that could prove to be more difficult. While Biden's platform says that ICE "should not" use private prisons for detaining immigrants, it's not clear that it will be banned entirely. Though that would sure be nice.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse