Metro Council Will Vote On Resolution Asking City Not To Invest Benefit Fund In Private Prisons | Nashville Public Radio

Metro Council Will Vote On Resolution Asking City Not To Invest Benefit Fund In Private Prisons

Jul 17, 2018


Update: This story has been updated to reflect new information from the Office of Metro's Finance Director, which says all Core Civic investments were sold in November 2016. 

Metro Council members on Tuesday will vote on a measure asking the city to stop investing money from its employee pension fund into for-profit prisons.

Councilwoman Erica Gilmore says Nashville has close to $1 million invested in CoreCivic — the nation’s second largest private prison company — which also has its headquarters in Nashville. The city disputes that claim.

CoreCivic owns or manages over 100 facilities across the U.S, including local jails, immigration detention facilities, halfway houses and treatment centers. Nashville also has a $100 million contract with Core Civic to run the Metro Davidson County Detention Facility.

Gilmore said it’s immoral for the city to profit off incarceration, even if it is legal.

“These private prisons have also been linked to numerous cases of violations and atrocious conditions that people are living in,” said Gilmore at a press conference announcing the resolution on Monday afternoon.

She cited reports of mismanagement and neglect at CoreCivic facilities, like a scabies outbreak last year.

Amanda Gilchrist, a spokeswoman for CoreCivic, said in a statement to WPLN that “much of the information about our company being shared by special interest groups is wrong and politically motivated, resulting in some people reaching misguided conclusions about what we do.”

She added that the company’s primary job is to “help the government solve problems in ways it could not do alone," adding that their facilities are "subject to robust oversight and accountability measures." She did not respond specifically to the resolution.

But Gilmore, and supporters of the measure, point to numerous accusations of wrongdoing at CoreCivic facilities across the country, including excessive use of solitary confinement and inadequate medical care, dating back to the company’s former name, Corrections Corporation of America.

Justin Jones, of Moral Movement Tennessee, an advocacy group backing the measure, asked city officials to think of people like Efrain De La Rosa, who is believed to have committed suicide after ten days in solitary confinement at Stewart Detention Center, a CoreCivic immigration facility in Georgia. Another man, Jean Jimenez-Joseph, hung himself in his cell last May. In January, another man died from pneumonia at the same facility.

Gilmore’s resolution is a non-binding request to divest.  

Government worker plans, valued at close to $3 billion dollars, are managed by an independent investment committee. Metro Council can make recommendations but cannot dictate the fund’s investments.

But Councilmember Fabian Bedne, a co-sponsor, says the city’s government needs to take a stand against for-profit prisons.

“We don’t want our pension, our savings money, to benefit from people’s misery, “ said Bedne.

Last summer, New York City got rid of close to $50 million in private prison investments citing human rights concerns.