Hillary Clinton has agreed to stop accepting contributions from federally registered lobbyists and PACs for private prison companies, her campaign staff confirmed with Fusion early Friday morning.
The campaign has promised to donate any previous direct contributions from private prison lobbyists to charity.
“It's an encouraging step forward,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of the online civil rights group ColorOfChange.
Robinson said the Clinton campaign agreed to stop taking contributions from private prison lobbyists after a lot of “substantive and open conversations.” He noted other civil rights and immigrant rights groups pressured Clinton, including Black Lives Matter, Get Equal, Presente, and United We Dream.
The Clinton campaign announcement comes three months after The Intercept reported “lobbyists for two major prison companies are serving as top fundraisers for Hillary Clinton.” Earlier this month Juan Carlos Ramos, 22, an activist with United We Dream, interrupted Clinton while she delivered a speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s gala. Ramos said he was urging Clinton to stop accepting “prison money.”
Robinson sent an email to ColorOfChange’s members noting “private prison companies are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses targeting Black communities in America, especially Black trans women who are disproportionately targeted by police.”
“The campaign heard us and they should be commended for making the right decision,” Robinson told Fusion.
People of color are more likely to be housed in private prisons, according to the research of Christopher Petrella, an African-American studies Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley. Petrella found people of color are overrepresented in private minimum and medium security facilities relative to their public counterparts in each of the nine states he examined.
Petrella intentionally excluded undocumented immigrants being held in private prison facilities by immigration authorities and the Bureau of Prisons.
An estimated 62% of the 34,000 immigration detention beds in the U.S. are operated by for-profit prison corporations, up from 49% in 2009, according to a report released earlier this year by Grassroots Leadership, a group whose mission it is to end for-profit incarceration.
An additional roughly 23,000 immigrants are held each night in private prisons that are contracted out to corporations by the Bureau of Prisons.
“Hillary Clinton has said we must end the era of mass incarceration, and as president, she will end private prisons and private immigrant detention centers,” Clinton campaign spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa wrote in an email to Fusion.
At a Las Vegas campaign stop in May, Clinton raised concerns about immigrants in immigration detention centers run by private companies. “I’m not sure a lot of Americans know that a lot of the detention facilities for immigrants are run by private companies and that they have a built-in incentive to fill them up,” Clinton said, referring to a congressional mandate that makes immigration officials have 34,000 beds available every night.
“She believes that we should not contract out this core responsibility of the federal government, and when we’re dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don’t need private industry incentives that may contribute—or have the appearance of contributing—to over-incarceration,” Hinojosa said.
“This is only one of many ways that she believes we need to rebalance our criminal justice and immigration systems,” said Hinojosa.