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PLN associate editor quoted in article re protest against Wells Fargo bank

Nashville Business Journal, Jan. 1, 2011.
PLN associate editor quoted in article re protest against Wells Fargo bank - Nashville Business Journal 2011

CCA, Wells Fargo target of demonstration in downtown Nashville
Nashville Business Journal - by Brian Reisinger, Staff Writer

Date: Friday, July 1, 2011, 1:52pm CDT

A small group of activists rallied in front of Wells Fargo bank in downtown Nashville today, calling on people to withdraw money because of ties to the private prison industry.

The protest — which drew about a dozen activists and caught the attention of passers by over the lunch hour — slammed the bank for what critics say amounts to an investment in the private prison industry. Also among the targets were Corrections Corp. of America (NYSE: CXW), the publicly traded Nashville company that is the largest player in the private prison industry.

"I encourage people to shop around and bank responsibly," said Alex Friedmann, a local critic of CCA and the private prison industry and associate editor of Prison Legal News.

The protest also included activists affiliated with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Activists held signs and handed out flyers decrying the private prison industry for profiting off of incarceration, particularly immigrants who are detained.

Local Wells Fargo representatives provided material on the company’s community outreach, and in a statement the bank emphasized its service to Hispanics and other immigrants. The statement also said that Wells Fargo does not directly own shares of CCA or its major competitor, Geo Group, noting that transactions tied to investment clients can "give the incorrect impression" of the bank owning stock.

"As a diversified financial services company, Wells Fargo invests on behalf of clients and customers in thousands of domestic and foreign companies," the bank said.

Activists still consider the investments the bank’s responsibility, and displayed signs reading "Human Rights @ Wells Fargo? Don’t bank on it!" and other criticisms.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said private prison companies and governments are working to create "safe, humane and cost-effective" methods to deal with the country’s incarceration problem “that respect the dignity of the detainees and inmates.” He also said CCA does not lobby for laws affecting sentencing or immigration.

"We respect the group’s right to protest, but this does nothing to help find solutions to a challenge that only grows in cost and complexity," he said in a statement.

The group said that it knew of more than $220,000 that activists would remove from Wells Fargo accounts, mainly from one large undisclosed client.