As news the Gates Foundation recently divested from Britain’s G4S plc (LON:GFS) (OTCMKTS:GFSZF), the for profit owner of a truly growing business in prisons, US human rights activists wonder aloud concerning Gate’s US investments in the same type of prison management company. Is there a double standard, or were politics of who the G4S firm imprisoned more the issue?

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Why does the Gates Foundation invest in prison management?

The big question is why does the Gates Foundation invest in controversial US-based prison management?

“The international pressure Gates received for profiting from G4S plc (LON:GFS) (OTCMKTS:GFSZF)’s private prisons and security business really forced Bill Gates to divest,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of, the largest online Latino advocacy group. “Profiting from companies that hurt or, really, enslave other people is morally reprehensible and creates public outrage. He was reacting to public pressure.”

The public debate over G4S plc (LON:GFS) (OTCMKTS:GFSZF) raged, leaving observers to wonder how the firm remains in business. GS4 was embroiled in a scandal when it was discovered they were invoicing the government for prisoners who were dead, in another public prison or were not tagged in the prison system. GS4 was criticized for not providing enough security guards for the 2012 London Olympics. But the big blow from a political standpoint might have been the British firm’s involvement in for profit prison management in Palestinian claimed territories currently at the center of a violent revolt. This was the pressure point that mattered, according to sources.

As a side note, while Gates was long G4S, at one point, the company was a favorite short among many famous investors.

The question is: will this new found religion the Gates people found transfer to the US? Or was their disinvestment decision based only on international political pressure and not an issue regarding the for profit prison industry.

Gates trust’s controversial investment in Geo Group

As previously reported in ValueWalk, the Gates Trust is invested in the controversial The Geo Group, Inc. (NYSE:GEO), a US-based for profit prison management firm. Protesters charge GEO Group, which operates for profit prisons that detain illegal immigrants, maltreats its detainees and has engaged in lobbying for increased prison time as a method to boost revenue, a charge the company denies. Detainees accused of illegal immigration violations, some of whom have been imprisoned for more than two years on non-criminal charges, went on a hunger strike to spotlight their plight. In Washington State where GEO Group operates the Northwest Detention Center, 750 of 1,300 inmates refused food and garnered national attention. The GEO Group is accused of doling out harsh punishment for leaders of the non-violent protest, a charge the company denies.

Protestors have been documented as mostly peaceful, engaging in organized demonstrations outside Gates Foundation headquarters that featured families with children among the protesters. But the heat could soon be increased.

Gates Foundation might deliver the message about disinvestment in for profit prisons

“They are obviously getting the message,” Carmona said, noting the time frame. “This effort in England and Europe took a little bit of time but resulted in what we are seeing now.” Carmona is at the center of the US protests against the Gates Trust and said his group plans to ramp up the pressure. Although he wouldn’t reveal the exact methods, sources indicate that people personally close to the Gates Foundation may be speaking out to deliver the message about disinvestment in for profit prisons.

“We’re confident,” Carmona said. “We’re going to continue to apply the pressure and escalate until the Gates Trust does the right thing and ends this this morally reprehensible investment in the enslavement of human beings.”

As spotlighted in ValueWalk, Gates is among the most philanthropic of the major tech industry titans.