These Students Are Behind Columbia Univ.'s Divestment From Private Prisons

These Students Are Behind Columbia Univ.'s Divestment From Private Prisons

Columbia University is divesting from the private prison industry following a successful campaign by Students Against Mass Incarceration, an on-campus activist group.

Published June 24, 2015

Columbia University has divested from private prison companies, where $10 million of their endowment was invested. The Students Against Mass Incarceration, a group of African-American students, are behind this huge stride to weaken private prison companies economically.

In February 2014, the Columbia Prison Divest campaign was launched with the support of alumni, faculty and West Harlem community members. On Monday, June 22, students saw a victory when Columbia's Board of Trustees announced they were not only divesting from the prison companies Corrections Corporation of America and G4S, but were also banning future investments in prison operations. 

"Incarceration for non-violent crimes, long sentences for small quantities of illegal drugs and minimum sentencing policies have served to profit the prison industrial complex while disproportionately incarcerating African-Americans," student organizer Gabriela Catalina Pelsinger said in a release.

"The nation’s largest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, has thrived financially from such policies," Pelsinger continued.

There has also long been disparities in prison sentences. Black men were sentenced 19.5 percent longer than white men for the same crimes between December 2007 and September 2011, according to a report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

In 2014, former U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder officially called for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce sentencing for individuals who are serving time in federal prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

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(Photo: Madeline Larson)

Written by Natelege Whaley

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