Divesting from the Prison Industrial Complex
The National Prison Divestment Campaign has been in the news the last few weeks, after the University of California became the second US college to sell their shares in private prison companies.
Founded by Enlace* in May 2011, the National Prison Divestment Campaign consists of a coalition of 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.
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 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 like public education and healthcare.
In June, Columbia University became the first US college to divest from private prisons. This entailed dumping 220,00 shares in G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, as well as its shares in CCA. On December 29, the University of California joined them, selling $30 million $30 million of CCA and GEO stock.
African American lawyer and activist Michelle Alexander describes the infamous school-to-prison pipeline endured by minority families in The New Jim Crow. The US has the highest prison population in the world. The vast majority are African Americans and Hispanics, locked away for victimless crimes such as drug possession. As Alexander ably documents police disproportionately enforce these crimes in minority communities, where effective legal representation is virtually non-existent.
*Enlace is a strategic alliance of low-wage worker centers, unions, and community organizations in Mexico and in the U.S.