The University Prison Divestment Campaign

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:

REC's Prison Divestment Overview

More Relevant Studies and Articles:

Banking On Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration by ACLU

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 

Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies by Justice Policy Institute 

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.

Sign up here to let us know you are interested in getting in touch with a REC staff member for more information about this campaign. You can also send an email to [email protected].

For more resources, click here.



Video courtesy of enlace.

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