The “too-big-to-fail” bank Wells Fargo received a $37 billion bailout from the government after playing a major role in sparking the 2008 collapse of the housing market. Now the bank is bigger than ever and investing heavily in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries — for-profit prisons.
Wells Fargo has been busy expanding its stake in the GEO Group, the second largest private jailer in America. At the end of 2011, Wells Fargo was the company’s second-largest investor, holding 4.3 million shares valued at more than $72 million. By March 2012, its stake had grown to more than 4.4 million shares worth $86.7 million.
Unfortunately, it’s a safe investment. While a 50 percent growth in the number of human beings our society cages in rape factories may sound impressive – or perhaps the word is “revolting” – a study released last year by the Justice Policy Institute found that the private prison industry grew by more than 350 percent over the last decade and a half. While other industries of course benefit from state-granted privileges, companies like GEO profit by the state literally kidnapping and handing them clientèle, particularly as of late about-to-be-deported immigrants, of which President Barack Obama has ensured there is a steady, record-breaking supply.
It’s a win-win situation for Wells Fargo, which apparently has realized that housing for prisoners is a much less risky business than housing for free people.
The Salon story calls to mind the award-winning movie The Graduate, in which Dustin Hoffman’s character, a young college grad, is pulled aside and given career advice from a friend of his father’s: “I just want to say one word to you, just one word, are you listening? Plastics.” If The Graduate were remade now, the magic word might be prisons.