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.
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.
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.
Dear friends and organizers,
Enlace, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Immigrant Youth Coalition, Afrikan Black Coalition, and REC are working together to organize this year's Prison Divestment Youth Retreat. We now have a date and a location: August 6th-9th in LA.
This Retreat will be an opportunity to connect, learn, and build with organizers from around the country who are using divestment and other strategies to break the lobbying power of private prisons and dismantle the for-profit interests that profit from trauma in communities of colorand immigrant communities. It will consist of workshops, activities, and actions led by Afrikan Black Coalition, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Enlace, Immigrant Youth Coalition and REC.
Filling out the form is free, and the sooner you can sign up the easier it will be to figure out logistics! Costs will be determined on a sliding scale, and we are working to get travel scholarships as well (more information on this soon).
WE HAVE NOW EXCEEDED CAPACITY ON REGISTRATIONS. ALL NEW REGISTRATIONS WILL BE DEFERRED TO OUR WAITLIST. IF YOU REGISTER WE WILL CONTACT YOU WITHIN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS TO UPDATE YOU ON ANY OPENINGS.
The University Prison Divestment Campaign
In Spring 2013, students at UC Berkeley formed a coalition of groups including MEChA and the Black Student Union to fight back against high rates of incarceration for immigrants and people of color in this country. They won a Student Senate resolution calling on the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies profiting off of prisons, and fully divesting student funds from those companies.
Since then, the student campaign at UC Berkeley has been joined by a growing number of university prison divestment campaigns around the country, including but not limited to the Afrikan Black Coalition (University of California system), the Dream Defenders (University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University), the City University of New York (CUNY), and Columbia Prison Divest (Columbia University). These students are calling on their universities to divest holdings in private prison companies, to use their influence to push wall street banks to divest, and to reinvest in communities most harmed by mass incarceration and immigrant detentions.
These student-led campaigns are just one part of a larger National Prison Divestment Campaign, which was convened by Enlace in May 2011, and consists of a coalition including over 150 grassroots organizations, worker centers, unions, and other nonprofits. Over the past four years, this coalition has won numerous victories, such as the recent divestments of SCOPIA, Amica Mutual Insurance, and DSM Netherlands, and the implementation of a investment policy for the City of Portland, OR, that will prevent the city from ever investing in private prisons.
Participants at the Youth Prison Divestment Retreat in Miami, August 2014
The National Prison Divestment Campaign focuses primarily on two companies: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group (GEO). These companies have a history of buying politicians and using lobbying for policies that criminalize immigrants and people of color. One example of this kind of policy is the latest federal budget, which proposes a record allocation of $2.9 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to imprison 34,000 people on any given day. Meanwhile, legislatures at every level of government are cutting budgets for essential services likepublic education and healthcare.
To learn more about the campaign, check out our resources below!
Prison Divestment Resources:
More Relevant Studies and Articles:
Prisoners Of Profit by Chris Kirkham, Huffington Post
Locked Up & Shipped Away: Interstate Prison Transfers and the Private Prison Industry by Holly Kirby, Grassroots Leadership
Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and "Low Crime Taxes" Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporationsby In the Public Interest
5 Links Between Higher Education and the Private Prison Industry by Hannah K. Gold, Rolling Stone
Agenda from Miami Prison Divestment Youth Retreat, August 15-17 2014.
For more resources, click here.
Video courtesy of enlace.