PCASC and Enlace Insist: Wells Fargo, Divest from Private Prison
by Grace Schoenlake
On Monday June 25th, community members and activists from the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) and Enlace organized a city-wide, synchronized letter drop at eight Wells Fargo branches throughout Portland. At each branch, activists asked to speak with the branch manager about issues involving Wells Fargo’s investments in the private prison industry and delivered letters demanding that Wells Fargo divest from said industry. PCASC and Enlace, both involved in the national Prison Divestment Campaign, sought to address a lack of community accountability and hoped to raise this important issue by targeting Wells Fargo neighborhood branches.
Although it is public information that Wells Fargo owns shares in GEO Group, the second largest private prison company in the U.S., Don Pearson, Wells Fargo’s Regional President, denies that the company is invested in GEO Group and remains unwilling to meet with PCASC members to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, the Wells Fargo Advantage Fund continues to manage for-profit prison investments that support asystem that blatantly incentivizes imprisoning poor people and people of color.
PCASC and Enlace seek to publicize the connections between this powerful Wall Street financial institution and the private prison industry. The majority of immigrants who are detained and deported are held in prisons run by either GEO Group (GEA) or Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Abuses in these facilities have been widely documented and include wrongful deaths (both from lack of medical care and from assault), rape and other sexual abuse, and other violent treatment of prisoners. With the financial support of Wells Fargo and other Wall Street giants, GEO and CCA are able to successfully lobby for private prison contracts and laws that criminalize immigrants and communities of color. Wells Fargo has a deep investment in these institutions that push for racist, anti-immigrant laws, criminalize people of color, tear families apart, and destroy communities.
No more than 2 days after the action on June 25th, did PCASC receive a letter from the law department of Wells Fargo, stating that PCASC members and supporters were no longer permitted in any Wells Fargo branch to discuss political issues. While it is clear that the aforementioned letters successfully reached Don Pearson (eight times!), PCASC will continue to raise awareness of Wells Fargo’s investments and demand that it end its financial support for the racist industry of private prisons and immigrant detention centers.