Sen. Elizabeth Warren Pledges to End “Private Profiteering Off Cruelty,” Citing Worth Rises’ Prison Industrial Complex Report

NEW YORK, NY — Today, presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a platform outlining her vision for eliminating private prisons and ending the transfer of carceral costs onto the vulnerable communities targeted and exploited by the prison industrial complex.

Citing Worth Rises’ Prison Industrial Complex Report, Warren pledged to ban private prisons and detention facilities, stop contractors from charging fees for essential services like communication and healthcare, and hold contractors accountable by expanding oversight, transparency and enforcement.

Bianca Tylek, Executive Director of Worth Rises, responds: “We are glad to see that the prison industrial complex is finally part of the national electoral discussion on criminal justice, and that presidential candidates like Sen. Warren are addressing the issue directly. The intention that roots her plan resonates with our mission to end the exploitation of all people touched by incarceration and offers concrete policies to help us get there.

VICTORY: SAN FRANCISCO MAKES JAIL PHONE CALLS FREE AND ELIMINATES JAIL COMMISSARY MARKUPS

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Today, after months of discussions with Worth Rises and our local partners, Mayor London Breed and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy announced that San Francisco will become the first county in the nation to make all phone calls from jail free and end all markups on jail store items. The Mayor’s budget, released on June 1, reflected her decision to make phone calls free, explaining that “communication between incarcerated people and their loved ones can increase safety within jails, decrease recidivism, and improve reentry outcomes.”

Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, was thrilled by the announcement: “This is another historic victory for prison phone justice and criminal justice advocacy. Annually, people in San Francisco’s jails and their support networks spend more than $1.1 million on phone calls to stay connected, roughly $600,000 of which the city collects in commissions, and another $644,000 in markups on commissary products pocketed by the city. But the end is in sight.

CONNECTICUT LEGISLATURE FAILS TO PASS FREE PRISON PHONE CALLS BILL, BUT PROMISES TO PRIORITIZE FOR 2020

HARTFORD, CT — In a disappointing end to Connecticut’s legislative session, lawmakers opted to table the groundbreaking criminal justice bill, House Bill 6714 (H.B. 6714), for next year’s session.

Introduced by Rep. Josh Elliott (D-Hamden), the bill would allow Connecticut residents to communicate with their incarcerated loved ones at no cost, prevent the state from collecting kickbacks on prison communication, and protect in-person visits for incarcerated people and their loved ones.

Bianca Tylek, Executive Director of Worth Rises, expressed dismay at the legislature failing to vote on the bill, but optimism for next year: “Of course we’re disappointed that the vote on our bill was postponed, but importantly, it didn’t die on its merits. The bill failed because the omnibus vehicle carrying it failed in broader negotiations. We had the votes to pass it as a standalone bill, but we ran out of time given filibuster risks on the last eve of the legislative session. It’s frustrating, but it gives us hope as we continue to fight, and we will.  

ONE-OF-A-KIND DATABASE DOCUMENTS THE MONEY THAT DRIVES THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Second edition of “The Prison Industrial Complex: Mapping Private Sector Players” exposes over 3,900 companies profiting off the carceral state

NEW YORK, NY — Non-profit criminal justice advocacy organization Worth Rises is proud to announce the publication of the 2019 edition of The Prison Industrial Complex: Mapping Private Sector Players report. First published last year, the database that underlies the report has grown by more than 800 corporations to over 3,900 corporations across 12 sectors—ranging from construction to transportation and healthcare to telecom—and the investors that profit from the devastating mass incarceration of our nation’s marginalized communities. The report aggregates critical information about these corporations to help advocates, litigators, journalists, investors, artists, and the public challenge the commercialization of the criminal legal system.

Worth Rises Executive Director Bianca Tylek explained: “Before this report, many of the companies involved in the prison industrial complex flew below the radar, often intentionally to avoid the headline risk that comes with profiting off mass incarceration today. This data brings these companies to light and equips advocates with the information needed to challenge them. This year’s edition expands on our original report with the addition of more than 800 companies. In publishing this report, we continue to expose the multi-billion-dollar industry built off the vulnerable communities—disproportionately black, brown, and cash poor—targeted by the criminal legal system.”

CRIMINAL JUSTICE ADVOCATES, COMMUNITY MEMBERS CELEBRATE  PASSAGE OF #PRISONPHONEJUSTICE BILL

HB 6714 passes Committee vote, moves Connecticut one step closer to prison phone justice

HARTFORD, CT — Today, prison phone justice advocates are celebrating the Joint Committee on Judiciary’s passage of Connecticut House Bill 6714, which would make not just phone calls, but all communication out of Connecticut correctional facilities free. The bill passed and now goes to the Appropriations Committee.

Bianca Tylek, Executive Director of Worth Rises, applauded today’s outcome: “For years, prison telecom corporation Securus has paid Connecticut millions in corporate kickbacks to gouge its incarcerated and their support networks, disproportionately impacting communities of color and poverty. H.B. 6714 has put a national spotlight on Connecticut. Currently ranking 49th in the country in the affordability of prison phone calls, Connecticut now has the opportunity, and imperative, to become a leader in prison phone justice. H.B. 6714 will prevent Securus and the state from draining millions of dollars from the people who can least afford it.”

NYC COUNCIL VOTES TO ELIMINATE CITY-IMPOSED BAIL PAYMENT FEES

NEW YORK, NY — The New York City Council voted to approve Intro No. 1199 today, a bill introduced by Councilmembers Keith Powers and Rory Lancman that eliminates bail fees imposed by New York City. The City currently charges a 2% fee for online bail payments and an 8% fee for bail payments made by credit card at a Department of Corrections facility, on top of any fees a person pays to a commercial bail bondsman. This change leaves in place a 3% credit card bail payment fee imposed on bail payments made in person at a courthouse by the Office of Court Administration, which is not under City control.  

In December 2018, the Zero Profits Coalition submitted testimony supporting Intro. 1199, noting that these harmful fees stem from opaque JPay contracts with the City that aim to profiteer off of people trying to pay bail.

The following statement can be attributed to Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, Color of Change, Fines and Fees Justice Center, Jails Action Coalition, JustLeadershipUSA, The Luke Law Firm, Mental Health Project at the Urban Justice Center, Shalom United Missions International, Visionary V, VOCAL-NY, and Worth Rises.