G4S plc is a British-Danish dually-traded company with worldwide security service operations. It is the largest security company in the world, with over 611,000 employees in over 125 countries. In its 2014 annual report, G4S reported £6.8 billion (or approximately $11.2 billion) in revenues.
The 2014 annual report of the company lists “Care and Justice Services” as accounting for 9% of the company’s revenues in 2014, or more than $1 billion. That consists of revenues from the management of prisons, juvenile and immigrant detention facilities around the world, transportation of prisoners and detainees, deportation services and electronic tagging and monitoring. G4S is the world’s largest provider of "electronic monitoring services," including apparatus used to track and confine individuals on parole and on bail.
In the UK
G4S has been an important ‘outsourcing partner’ for the government, covering a wide range of services including military, justice, police and welfare. The company has been managing five prisons, two immigration removal centers, accommodations for asylum seekers and hundreds of court and police cells throughout the country, as well as providing border security and electronic monitoring to about 20,000 people on probation or bail.
A series of public fiascos in recent years have cost the company some of its major contracts. These included the 2010-2012 investigation into the death of Jimmy Mubenga at the hands of G4S guards during his deportation, leading to the loss of deportation contracts; accusations of improper management of a number of prisons, including health care provision, suicide prevention and human rights protection at Wolds prison, costing the company that contract; the company’s failure to provide security to the 2012 Olympics; and the 2013 exposure of a consistent fraudulent overcharging for electronic tagging services by false claims (at times charging the government for dead prisoners or prisoners out of the country). In January 2016, staff members of a G4S managed youth offenders centre in Kent were accused of physical and emotional abuse against several teenagers.
On March 9th, 2016, the firm announced that would sell off its U.K. Utility Services and Children Services business, as well as its U.S. Youth Justice Services and the G4S Israel subsidiary within 12-24 months. If followed through, this sale will end G4S' juvenile detention work in the U.S. and the U.K. This announcement came a few weeks after allegations of abuse in G4S-operated youth jail facilities.
In the U.S.
G4S Secure Solutions inc. (formerly the Wackenhut Corporation) is the U.S. arm of the company, with 20% of its global revenues. Its primary business in the US is providing private security to government buildings, nuclear facilities, banks, and special events. G4S also provides security systems and technology for prisons and private security corporations, such as alarm systems, key holding, and video cameras.
G4S runs youth detention facilities across the U.S., including in Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Florida. These are run by G4S Youth Services, headquartered in Tampa, Florida. The majority of these facilities (28) are in Florida (see a list of highlighted facilities here and a list of facilities in Florida here). The company contracts with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to operate juvenile detention programs (“academies”), probation services, residential facilities, mental health and outpatient services, and even “maximum-risk” correctional centers. In Florida there have been consistent reports of sexual abuse, use of excessive force, recurring riots, and numerous resulting lawsuits against the company.
On March 9th, 2016, the firm announced that it would sell off its its U.S. Youth Justice Services as well as its U.K. Utility Services and Children Services business and the G4S Israel subsidiary within 12-24 months. If followed through, this sale will end G4S' juvenile detention work in the U.S. and the U.K.
Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection has outsourced all transportation services to G4S since 2006. G4S transports detainees to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities throughout the country, temporarily detains them to await processing and forcibly deports them across the U.S./Mexico border. An official promotional brochure by the company was titled “The Bus No One Wants to Catch – The End of the Road for Illegal Immigrants.”
From 2010 through 2013, G4S Secure Solutions has spent $110,000 lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), focusing on issues relating to border security and “liability,” as well as issues pertaining to service procurement by the Customs and Border Protection agency. In 2014, the company was made to sell its U.S. Government Solutions division, after charges of complicity in human rights violations in the Guantánamo Bay U.S. Naval Base.
In South Africa
In South Africa, the company has extensive business, including the ownership and operation of the second largest private prison in the world, Mangaung Correctional Centre, a maximum-security facility which accommodates 3,000 inmates. In 2013, after G4S dismissed 330 guards who went on strike, there was a series of inmate revolts and hostage taking, resulting in the temporary taking over of the prison back by the state’s Department of Correctional Services.
During that time, a year-long investigation has uncovered a practice of G4S security teams using electric shocks and forcibly administering injections of antipsychotic drugs to subdue inmates. The prison was returned to G4S management, but a continued public investigation has exposed a cover-up of several prisoner deaths following such torture and prompted a suit by 43 prisoners against the company for torture.
On its website, G4S boasts of “corporate responsibility” through the practice of donating to the community the fruits of prison labor in Mangaung.
Labor rights violations
G4S has been implicated in labor rights violations in several of its global sites. Official complaints under OECD guidelines from G4S sites in Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa (and others) including testimonies of racial segregation and poverty wages, led to a G4S commitment to workers’ rights in 2008, but despite this, in the following years G4S was implicated in labour rights abuses in Uganda, South Korea, and South Africa.
The company offers security services to facilities, for example to platinum mines in South Africa, specifically to counter “Labor Unrest,” including riot control, undercover operations, intelligence gathering and canine support.
In Israel/ Palestine
G4S Israel (Hashmira), 92% owned by G4S, is one of the major security systems and services providers to all branches of the Israeli government, including to the Israeli Ministry of Defense headquarters in Tel Aviv, the Israeli armored corps base of Nachshonim, and buildings and equipment of the security and finance industries. Its security patrol units, the company states, are manned by "warriors who graduated elite combat units in the Israeli army". G4S and 3M supply all electronic monitoring systems to prisoners in Israel.
Separation Wall and Military Checkpoints:
The company has provided equipment for Israeli-run checkpoints and terminals in the West Bank and Gaza, including luggage scanning machines and full body scanners by Rapiscan and L-3's Safeview to the Erez checkpoint in Gaza and to the Qalandia, Bethlehem and Irtah (Sha’ar Efraim) checkpoints in the West Bank. These military checkpoints are part of the Israeli separation barrier which controls the movement of Palestinian civilian residents. This project is strictly illegal under international law according to a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice.
Prisons for Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel:
G4S Israel installed and operates the entire security system of the Ketziot Prison, the central control room of the Megiddo Prison and security services to Damon prison. The Ketziot, Megido, and Damon Prisons, located inside Israel, are incarceration facilities designated specifically for Palestinian political prisoners. In addition, G4S Israel provides the entire security systems and the central control room in Hasharon compound - Rimonim prison, which includes a wing for Palestinian political prisoners.
G4S Israel clearly indicates in its website that it operates in prisons which hold "security prisoners", that is Palestinian political prisoners. Ketziot prison is the biggest incarceration facility in Israel with 2,200 Palestinian political prisoners, Megiddo prison holds over 1,200 Palestinian political and Damon prison over 500 Palestinian political prisoners from the occupied West Bank. Some of these prisoners have not been charged and some are administrative detainees, held without charge. As of April 2015, Israel was holding 414 Palestinians in administrative detention, more than double the number held at the same time on the previous year.
The company also provided security systems for the Kishon ("Al-Jalameh") and Jerusalem ("Russian Compound") detention and interrogation facilities. Human rights organizations have collected evidence showing that Palestinian prisoners are regularly subjected to torture in these facilities.
The placement of prisons for Palestinian prisoners inside Israel and the transfer of prisoners to the occupying power’s territory is a war crime according to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Convention’s Article 76 states: “Protected persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein”. When Palestinian prisoners are moved to prisons in Israel, it becomes almost impossible for them to have family visits or meet with their lawyers. Prisoners with families on the Gaza Strip have not been able to have visits from family members since 2007. Reports show that Palestinian children are also being held in prisons in Israel, which is a violation of Article 37c of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children have the right to maintain contact with their family through letters and visits, except under special circumstances.
Israeli military prison and court in the Occupied West Bank:
The company installed peripheral defense systems on the walls surrounding the Ofer prison and operates a central control room for the entire Ofer military compound. Ofer is an Israeli prison for Palestinian political prisoners, located in the occupied West Bank, near the settlement of Givat Ze'ev. The prison holds about 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners and includes a military court which tries detainees from the West bank on a daily basis. The conviction rate for Palestinians in Israeli military courts is 99.74%.
As of June 2015, 93 children were reportedly held in Ofer military prison, The compound also hosts an Israeli military courtroom dedicated to trying Palestinian children. Between 2005-2010, 835 Palestinian minors were accused of stone-throwing in Israeli military courts. Only one was acquitted.
G4S Israel is the sole provider of electronic security systems to the Israeli police. It provided equipment to the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters, located in the highly contested E-1 area next to the Ma'ale Adomim settlement (the Judea and Samaria Police headquarters - “Machoz Shai”). This police force is tasked exclusively with servicing the Israeli settler population in the occupied West Bank.
Security services in illegal Israeli settlements
The company offers its security services to businesses in illegal settlements, including security equipment and personnel to shops and supermarkets in the Barkan settlement industrial zone, in the West Bank settlements of Modi’in Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, Har Adar, the settlement neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and the settlement of Kalia in the Jordan Valley.
G4S Israel also maintains cooperation with Ariel College in the illegal settlement city of Ariel in the occupied West Bank, which has included the company's participation in an open career day in the college.
The company’s own hired human rights expert, international law professor Hjalte Rasmussen, has stated that: “G4S has contracts with a number of major commercial interests, such as banks, supermarkets, and clothing chains, for the delivery of security guards for branches and stores of these customers as per the customers’ wishes. The branches and stores in question are mainly located in Israel, but G4S is also under contractual obligation to provide guards for the branches and stores that are on exception located east of the ’Green Line’, more specifically in East Jerusalem or on the West Bank”.
Outside investigation and company statements
In October 2012, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories has listed G4S as one of the main companies profiting from Israeli settlements and called on the UN General Assembly and civil society to take action against such businesses.
In March 2015, the British Government-sponsored National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD has published its findings of the British firm, stating that G4S is currently violating three human rights obligations under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, arising from its involvement in Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians. It has found significant failures by G4S in its overarching obligations to ‘respect human rights’; as well as the obligation to ‘prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to its business operations’ in the region.
In April 2013, following public pressure, the company has stated it would not renew some of its contracts in the occupied West Bank as they come for renewal in 2015, including contracts to supply technologies to Israeli military checkpoints, to the Ofer prison and to the West Bank Israeli police headquarters.
In June 2014, following protests at its annual shareholders meeting, it has committed to stepping out of all Israeli prison contracts as they expire in the next 3 years. As of October 2015, no change in the company operations was registered on the ground.
On March 9th, 2016, G4S announced in its annual report that it will sell off G4S Israel over the next two years.
Economic Activism Highlights
- In April 2016, the Alliance of Baptists unanimously decided to divest from companies profiting off the occupation, including G4S.
- In April 2016, the UN Office for Project Services becomes the third UN agency in Jordan to drop contracts with G4S.
- On April 12, 2016, the University of Minnesota passed a resolution calling for socially responsible investment policies and divestment from global human rights violations.
- On March 22, 2016, Cornell University’s Herman F. Johnson Museum of Art terminated its contract with British security Firm, G4S. Black Students United at Cornell University campaigned for the termination because of G4S’ involvement in the private prison industry.
- March 25, 2016, The Unitarian Universalist Association and its endowment fund have implemented a human rights screen and divested from companies complicit in human rights violations, including G4S.
- On March 6, 2016, the Vassar Student Association voted to support the international BDS movement and to divest from companies profiting from Israeli human rights abuses, including G4S.
- On March 1, 2016, the University College London Union voted to support the BDS campaign, stating that the student union will “not have any commercial or investment relationship with companies that participate in Israeli violations of international law, including G4S, Veolia, HP and military companies that supply Israel such as BAE Systems and Raytheon.”
- In March 2016, the United Nations Children's Fund in Jordan decided to terminate its contract with G4S over growing pressure from organizers concerned with G4S involvement in occupation.
- The Undergraduate Student Government Assembly at the University of Illinois-Chicago unanimously voted on February 16, 2016, to pass a resolution to divest from corporations profiting off the Israeli occupation and other human rights violations, including G4S.
- On February 10, 2016, California State University, Los Angeles administrators have agreed to divest from private prison companies after pressure from CSULA Black Student Union.
- On January 19, 2016, a landslide vote by the University of South Florida student senate passed a joint resolution to divest from corporations who profit from "illegal and brutal occupation" in Palestine, including G4S. The resolution was later vetoed by the student government president.
- In December 2015, the California Endowment divested its holdings from "companies that derive significant annual revenue from private prison services," including G4S.
- In November 2015, the student government at San Jose State University voted to divest from "companies that play an active role in the human rights violations committed by the Israeli Government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" including G4S.
- In the UK, the Labour Party officially instituted a boycott G4S as of November 21st, 2015, citing the company's role in violating Palestinian human rights.
- In October 2015 the Human Rights Council of the city of Portland, Oregon demanded that the City Socially Responsible Investments Committee place G4S on the city's "Do Not Buy" list due to its complicity in "serious human rights violations in the ongoing illegal and brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land."
- On June 30, 2015, the United Church of Christ voted in favor of "divestment and boycott of companies that are complicit in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza" including G4S.
- In June 2015, Columbia University officially divested from G4S as part of a new policy prohibiting investment in the private prison industry and based on G4S's business both in the United States and Palestine/Israel.
- In May 2015, the Oglethorpe University Student Senate passed a resolution to divest from G4S “based on evidence of their active role in human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
- In May 2015, the University of Helsinki announced that it was dropping its security contract with G4S in response to a campaign initiated by concerned students and faculty objecting to the company's role in the Israeli prison.
- In February 2015, the student union at the University of Kent in the southeast of England voted to terminate its contract with G4S following an “outcry” over its role in human rights abuses in Palestine, South Africa, the UK and other countries.
- Stanford University students passed a resolution in February 2015, urging divestment from G4S, among other “companies implicated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, many of which facilitate parallel injury against communities of color here in the United States.”
- Northwestern University students voted to divest from G4S in February 2015, citing its involvement in “interrogation and detention centers where Palestinians are regularly subjected to torture.”
- In January 2015, the student union at University College London voted unanimously to drop its contract with G4S in response to its "atrocious" human rights record in Israel/Palestine and US prisons.
- In January 2015, the UC Davis student senate passed a divestment resolution urging the university to drop investments in G4S because it “provides resources furthering human rights violations and systematic discrimination.” The bill was later repealed based on constitutional technicality.
- In November 2014 the municipality of Durham, North Carolina dropped a municipal private policing contract with G4S after a successful community campaign by the Durham Drop G4S coalition for non-renewal.
- Loyola University in Chicago passed a 2014 divestment resolution against G4S because it “play[s] active roles in the human rights abuses committed by the Israeli Government.”
- In May 2014, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it had divested enough shares in G4S to no longer meet the 3% ownership threshold required for reporting. The move came after a year-long activist campaign highlighting G4S's role in the Israeli prison system and mass incarceration.
- In 2014, the University of New Mexico’s Graduate and Professional Student Association voted to divest from G4S, citing its “security equipment for Israeli prisons that hold Palestinian political prisoners and for Israeli military checkpoints.”
- In 2014, Britain’s National Union of Students voted to call on its members to boycott G4S because it is “complicit in financing and aiding Israel’s military.”
- The Black Students' Conference (of Britain’s National Union of Students) in 2014 resolved to “lobby Institutions and Unions to divest from key BDS target companies, including G4S” due to Israel’s “multitude of human rights and international law violations.”
- The Dutch Green Party discontinued using G4S for its national office’s security in 2014, citing its “activities in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.”
- The United Methodist Church voted to divest its pension fund from G4S in 2014, citing “concerns about the company's involvement in human rights violations in the Israeli prison system and the military occupation of Palestinian territories. ”
- In 2014, the student union at Britain's Kent University voted to divest from G4S because of its "human rights abuses in Palestine."
- The Oberlin College student senate voted to divest from G4S in May 2013 due to its “injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people by Israel.”
- Dundee University (Scotland) students voted to end outstanding G4S contracts in 2013, citing its “services and equipment for the Israeli security institutions and buildings operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
- The university of Oslo ended its G4S security contract in 2013.
- Dutch labor union Abvakabo terminated its contract with G4S in 2013, citing "its role in Israel’s violations of international law.”
- In November 2013, King’s College London and Southampton University chose not to award G4S major security contracts following vigorous student campaigns.
- In November 2013, the University of Bergen in Norway decided not to renew G4S as its security contractor due to the firm’s role in the Israeli prison system and illegal Israeli settlements.
- In October 2013, Industri Energi, a trade union for workers in the energy and heavy industry sectors in Norway, canceled its contract with G4S over its role in Israeli prisons.
- In August 2012, British firm Good Energy announced that it would end its business relationship with G4S because of the company's human rights record in both Israel/Palestine and in UK prisons
- In April 2012, G4S lost its contract with the European Parliament after a year-long campaign by a group of 28 Members of the European Parliament in conjunction with activists calling attention to the company's worldwide abuse of human rights.
- In November 2010, the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) in Denmark ended its contract with G4S. Pat Nissen of RCT’s explained that “G4S as a company is helping to facilitate torture.”