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Shame on Citizens campaign calls on Citizens Bank to divest from private prisons and ICE



Citizens Bank … continues to provide over $120 million dollars in loans to CoreCivic. Financial support of CoreCivic is a flagrant violation of Citizens Bank’s professed standards of integrity and community accountability.

Eight people with the Shame on Citizens campaign attempted to deliver a message to Citizens Bank executives at their Johnston, Rhode Island HQ on Monday morning, urging the bank to stop funding private prisons and ICE detention centers. Citizens Bank has provided $120 million in loans to CoreCivic, one of the largest private prison corporations in the country. CoreCivic runs at least 65 prisons and ICE detention centers.

The Shame on Citizens campaign, a project of The Fang Collective, has a petition you can sign here.

No one representing Citizens Bank would meet with Shame on Citizens’ volunteers, so a banner was unfurled and the letter was read the letter out loud in the lobby.

Here’s the video:

We are writing in regards to Citizens Bank’s continued investment in CoreCivic, the largest private prison corporation in the United States,” read the Shame on Citizens letter. “CoreCivic operates over 65 prisons and I.C.E. detention centers that are known for their inhumane conditions, extreme violence, and willful medical neglect.

We demand that Citizens Bank immediately end its financing of private prisons by fully divesting from CoreCivic.

CoreCivic’s Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego was the site of the first major outbreak of COVID-19 in American detention centers. This outbreak was a consequence of the inhumane health and sanitary practices at the facility. When those detained inside Otay Mesa requested personal protective gear, they were pepper-sprayed and attacked by guards. Over 221 people at the detention facility have contracted the virus and one person has died.

This cruelty is not unique to the Otay Mesa Detention Center. In CoreCivic’s Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Tennessee, over 1,298 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and three people have died. People held inside CoreCivic’s Central Arizona Florence Correctional Complex have filed a lawsuit demanding more sanitary conditions, cleaning supplies, and social distancing measures. Across the country, over 2,500 people have contracted COVID-19 at detention centers operated by CoreCivic, resulting in dozens of deaths.

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CoreCivic’s medical neglect extends beyond the woefully inadequate protection provided during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, in a CoreCivic facility, Roxsana Hernandez, a trans woman seeking asylum from Honduras, was killed by the facility’s failure to provide her with adequate medical care.

Given this violence, most major banks – including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – have chosen to divest from private prisons. Citizens Bank, however, continues to provide over $120 million dollars in loans to CoreCivic. Financial support of CoreCivic is a flagrant violation of Citizens Bank’s professed standards of integrity and community accountability.

In the last several years, Citizens Bank has been recognized for its efforts to move toward more ethical banking practices. Yet if Citizens Bank truly aims to uphold its corporate promises to ‘foster the well-being of our communities’ and ‘do the right thing,’ it must immediately divest from CoreCivic and the private prison industry.

In 2017, Citizens Bank ended their financing of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, after a public pressure campaign led by Shame On Citizens and other community groups, including the FANG Collective. We will not stop pressuring Citizens Bank until the bank ends its complicity in financing private prisons. Just today we launched a new petition, asking people to pledge to close their Citizens Bank accounts if you do not divest from CoreCivic. This is only the beginning.

We urge you to align your financial investments with your ethical commitments. Protect your moral standing by joining your industry peers in divesting from CoreCivic and the private prison industry.

The event was entirely peaceful.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.