More than two million people in the U.S. are incarcerated. Right now more black men are under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850. As the scholars and activists in Ava Duvernay’s powerful documentary 13th remind us, mass incarceration is an unfair and ongoing assault on communities of color, exploiting already ravaged resources, crushing opportunity and threatening democracy.
It’s just one of the ways the private sector and the idolization of capitalism have deepened racial injustice. Using the seemingly race-neutral label “criminal”, we have justified the exploitation of people of color and their subsequent exclusion from economic life.
We will examine the commercialization of U.S. prisons as a symptom of this racist system. Through lobbying, campaign financing, and association funding, corporations engaged directly in the penal industry thwart criminal law reform and expand their own reach, redistributing resources from the poor and black and brown to the wealthy and white. Corporations outside the industry compound the impact of such wealth redistribution by barring those with criminal backgrounds from the job market. And though such decisions work against their corporate interests, violating their fiduciary responsibilities, they ultimately serve the broader goal of excluding black and brown people from the economy and reinforcing the inequality in our power structures.
At the beginning of a divisive law-and-order administration, investors must help solve the U.S. carceral crisis. Our Director, Bianca Tylek, joins Pat Tomaino, Associate Director of Socially Responsible Investing at the Zevin Asset Management, to lead a workshop on the role of wealth in our carceral crisis. Our workshop will undertake a race- and power-centric analysis of the role of private capital in mass incarceration. Participants will examine how inherited privilege, power, and access support mass incarceration and consider unique ways in which wealthy folks can help support solutions. We will brainstorm avenues of impact that include partnering with directly-impacted communities, funding radical advocacy, and investing in change.
And we’ll start with the first step: stop doing harm. Most wealthy folks are invested in the prison-industrial complex. Young people stepping into authority have a responsibility to ask: How can we use our money to move the economy away from incarceration?