Mission and Vision of the Prison Divestment Campaign

Mission

The Prison Divestment campaign aims to break the political power of the private prison industry in order to end policies that criminalize and incarcerate, in particular, poor, working class communities of color. We target universities that invest in private prison companies, like Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and demand that they divest because it is immoral to profit off of incarceration. Prison divestment is merely one tactic working towards shutting down the prison industry and collapsing the prison industrial complex.

In our understanding of the prison industrial complex, mass incarceration and criminalization extends beyond the private prison industry because the rise of the industry is a continuation of slavery. We expose and oppose the financial and political links between Universities and prisons, as well as police violence and state terror, the role of the immigration system and detention centers, prison labor, the exportation of the “super prison model” and the disproportionate impact on LGBTQ individuals within prisons, jails, and detention centers.

Beliefs & Principles

In waging the Prison Divestment campaign, we believe in centering directly affected people and promoting cross-movement collaboration between immigrant rights groups, LGBTQ liberation groups, and groups that work against police terror and violence. Confronting anti-Blackness and promoting leadership of formerly incarcerated people are important to our work. We believe in amplifying the needs of migrants highly affected by the criminal/immigration system.

We are waging this campaign because we understand that the prison system is founded on a racist, capitalist structure that is meant to profit off the bodies of the most marginalized, and that only through the destruction of this system will people find liberation. We seek a world where incarceration isn’t projected as the solution to poverty and displacement and where there are no borders or institutions like Immigration and Customs Enforcement that are utilized to police people. By demanding an end to these institutions, we will work towards challenging students to create alternative solutions and engage in positive investments in our communities.

 

Background

The National Prison Divestment Campaign was convened by Enlace International as a coalition effort to name the connection between major financial institutions and the for-profit prison industry and their joint role in the accelerated incarceration of Black people and immigrants.

Our campaign draws inspiration from the South Africa Anti-Apartheid Movement of the 1980s, which applied an effective divestment strategy in the United States. The anti-apartheid divestment campaign is a concrete example of a powerful grassroots campaign that succeeded in the United States even though a popular U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, opposed it.  Anyone who wanted to could participate, and so the campaign succeeded in engaging the participation of different kinds of groups including students, churches, human rights, labor, and civil rights organizations.

Apartheid was the policy used by government of South Africa to brutally enforce White supremacy and racial segregation in residential areas, medical care, education, employment, and public services. South Africa’s majority Black population were not allowed to be citizens under apartheid, nor were they allowed to travel outside areas where they lived for work without government-issued documents allowing them to do so. Starting in the 1950’s the African National Congress (ANC) and others spearheaded an international campaign to end this brutal system in South Africa.

As a part of their campaign strategy, the ANC sought help in developed countries outside South Africa through what was called Anti-Apartheid Divestment. The focus of this effort was to push corporations, universities and governments with financial ties to the South African government to divest all their holdings.

In the United States, these corporations included IBM, Hewlett Packard and General Motors as well as investors such as the University of California.

The Anti-Apartheid Divestment effort in the United States engaged students, churches, unions and other social activist groups. Beginning in the late 1970s, a growing number of religious, labor and higher education institutions started to divest their holdings in corporations with ties to the government of South Africa. It gained so much momentum that in 1988 the U.S. Congress passed, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which prohibited new investment in South Africa. President Ronald Reagan then vetoed it but the anti-apartheid divestment campaign had so much popular support that Congress voted to override President Reagan’s veto by more than a two-thirds majority, and the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act became law. South Africa’s apartheid system ended in 1994.

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