FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2022
Elyssa Pachico | +1 503-347-2329 | email@example.com
INVESTORS, BUSINESS LEADERS, AND ADVOCATES DENOUNCE YET ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO FINANCE NEW PRISONS IN ALABAMA
Wells Fargo and Raymond James participation undermines previous statements about racial justice. Proposed new prisons fail to address decades of violence and brutalization.
(New York, NY; June 27, 2022) A group of impact investors and social justice advocates are calling on municipal investors to refuse to purchase a $725 million of municipal bonds offered this Tuesday for sale by the Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority in a deal underwritten by Stephens, Frazer Lanier, Wells Fargo and Raymond James. Proceeds from the deal will be used to build two prison facilities with a capacity of 7,000 beds that will be operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), an institution with a long, checkered history of prison mismanagement subjecting inmates to decades of violence and assault. This deal represents the latest attempt to finance prison construction in Alabama and comes on the heels of a derailed financing from April 2021 that included Barclays and CoreCivic and saw investors roundly reject participation in a financing that would only perpetuate abuse and violence of those incarcerated in Alabama.
The participation of Wells Fargo and Raymond James conflicts with social and racial justice representations:
This deal has created additional concern from investors and activists because in 2020, Wells Fargo and Raymond James made strong and public statements around racial and social justice in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Aiding and abetting in the construction of prisons for a system in which Black inmates make up 54% of the incarcerated population while comprising just 28% of the total State population (white prison inmates make up 46% of incarcerated population while making up 66% of total State population) undoubtedly contradicts those prior explicit declarations.
New prisons fail to address grossly understaffed facilities and will fail to protect people who are incarcerated, as well as correctional staff.
According to the NPR podcast “Deliberate Indifference,” as well as a public ADOC staffing report, ADOC is operating with less than half of the correctional officers needed to operate the system effectively and safely. Without proper officer-to-inmate ratios, it is virtually impossible to provide court-mandated mental health, rehabilitative and vocational services. Spending $1.2 billion to construct new facilities does not improve staffing levels. In fact, spending $45 million per year in debt service will “crowd out” funding to recruit and retain officers as well as expand programs to help inmates. Regardless of new facilities, the constitutional rights of inmates will continue to be violated and the violence and brutalization will continue.
Lead underwriters Stephens and Frazer Lanier, as senior underwriters, will cost Alabama taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over the life of the bonds.
Given our successful campaign derailing Alabama’s first attempt to issue bonds in partnership with Barclays and CoreCivic back in April 2021, the larger more established investment banks, with the notable exception of Wells Fargo and Raymond James, refused to participate in this deal. As a result, the limited balance sheet capacity and regional focus of the lead underwriters (Stephens and Frazer Lanier) will cost Alabama taxpayers tens of millions of additional dollars in additional debt service over the life of this project. Those direct costs along with the social and economic costs of mass incarceration will stifle economic prosperity for generations to come making this a horrific transaction and project for the people of Alabama.
Legal action taken this morning against ADOC and Regions Bank, as trustee, calls into question the security of this bond offering. (Braggs v. Hamm (2:14-cv-00601)).
The Preliminary Official Statement indicates that the debt service on these bonds will be prioritized over other ADOC expenses, to the extent allowable by law. However, ADOC is under federal court order to use funds to increase staffing and bolster its mental health services—an order that ADOC has blatantly violated for years.Incarcerated plaintiffs contend that the costs of this project will hinder ADOC’s ability to comply with an existing court order. The court motion to intervene, filed on Monday, June 27, requests an injunction from the court to require that ADOC prioritize its limited funds toward improving immediate dangerous conditions over payments to bondholders.
Investors and Advocates denounce this deal and call for support for the wide range of transformative and restorative community-led solutions.
“These prison construction bonds are structured to mature as late as the year 2052,” said Veronica Johnson, Executive Director, Alabama Justice Initiative. “Do you know what that means? It means that this is a project to marry our state to mass incarceration for the better part of this century. It means that Alabamians, and Black Alabamians in particular, will continue to be incarcerated and brutalized by the Alabama Department of Corrections on a breathtaking scale. It means that Alabama residents like me will be paying these investors back – plus interest – for decades to come. These banks and investors plan to lock up our family members and take money from our pocketbooks all at the same time. It is a disgrace.”
“More and more, investors are refusing to finance the growth of mass incarceration – this is a bad deal that will cost more to taxpayers, expose investors to risk, and harm Black and Brown communities for generations. With $725M, Alabama could be scaling more efficient, more effective public safety and rehabilitative models, saving themselves millions each year, and spurring economic growth, yet Governor Ivey is doubling down on this bad deal for everyone,” comments Christina Hollenback, Founder and CEO, Justice Capital
“We strongly urge banks and investors to refuse to purchase securities being offered this week and any similar securities going forward whose purpose is to perpetuate mass incarceration. We encourage expanding investment in solutions that repair the harm done in Black, Brown, Indigenous and systems impacted communities.” says Sonia Kowal, President, Zevin Asset Management.
“We are pleased to see that the large financial institutions, with the notable exceptions of Wells Fargo and Raymond James, were receptive to our message from April 2021 when we urged them to refrain from participating in and supporting any effort made by Alabama to construct prisons. We look forward to working with any partners in the future who seek to promote regenerative and transformative investments in the communities most harmed by the legacy of systemic racism,” says Sancia Dalley, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Investor Engagement, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
“Prisons are the worst kind of racket — dangerous, corrupt, and inhumane. Big banks including Wells Fargo and Raymond James made a commitment to racial justice following the tragic murder of George Floyd. Supporting the construction of new prisons is disgraceful and we call every financial backer to reject the state’s effort to finance more prison construction. Activists and investors are united with a shared purpose, committed to stopping any future financing of mass incarceration,” said Matt Nelson, director of Presente.org.
Presente.org is Alianza Americas’ digital organizing powerhouse. As the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group — and the nation’s premier Latinx digital organizing hub — Presente.org advances social justice with technology, media, and culture.
Alianza Americas is the premier transnational advocacy network of Latin American migrant-led organizations working in the United States, across the Americas, and globally to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life for communities across North, Central and South America.