From Los Angeles to Middlebury, Vt., college and community groups are demanding that their institutions cut ties with the private-prison industry. The national Private Prison Divestment Campaign, led by Enlace, aims to destroy the lobbying power of the private-prison industry.
With more than a dozen events nationwide, the Prison Divestment Week of Engagement is using teach-ins, community forums and direct actions to call on municipal governments, pension funds, universities, and religious institutions to drop investments in for-profit prisons Corrections Corp. of America and the Geo Group.
Events listed on the Week of Engagement website include:
In Los Angeles, a coalition is holding a community forum at the First Baptist Church of Alhambra Saturday, April 25.
“This is about going to the root causes of the issue of criminalization of our communities,” said organizer Mariana Mendoza of Enlace. “We are attacking the profit motive brought by private prisons that has led to an explosion in incarceration of black and brown communities. This forum is part of a larger campaign that is involving more people, institutions, and faith communities in our fight to divest from the private-prison industry.”
On April 25 in Tacoma, Wash., former detainees and their supporters are leading an action against detention and deportations, and demonstrating in solidarity with 1,500 detainees imprisoned at Geo Group's Northwest Detention Center.
This week U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. 9, will reintroduce the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act, calling for accountability for corporations like Geo Group in running private detention centers.
Grassroots organizations Enlace and Northwest Detention Center Resistance are organizing the action as a call for institutions to divest private-prison stock.
“No one should profit from people's misery, imprisonment, and separation of families,” said organizer Maru Mora Villalpando. “All detentions and deportations should stop immediately.”
In Providence, R.I., at Brown University, Students Against the Prison Industrial Complex (SAPIC) held a series of teach-in events and open discussions April 20-23 about the prison industrial complex and abolition organizing in the city.
“We want to raise awareness about the PIC on our campus as well as begin building stronger connections between Providence community activists and student organizers at Brown,” said student organizer Jamie Marsicano. “We want to highlight the work that Providence activists have been doing for years. This will hopefully continue a discussion at Brown coming out of our recent successful campaign to get Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow assigned as Brown’s summer reading for the incoming first-year class.”
- On Thursday, April 23, national civil-rights organization Advancement Project hosted a #PrisonDivest twitter town hall to expand the national conversation around the consequences of the United States’ increasingly for-profit criminal punishment and immigration systems, and the growing movement to stop it.
The National Prison Divestment Week of Engagement will be followed by a demonstration outside the shareholder meeting for private prison giant The Geo Group in Boca Raton on April 29, and a three-day prison-divestment convening from May 3-5, at Florida Atlantic University.
The GEO Group and the Corrections Corp. of America are turning a profit off of locking families up. The private-prison industry has increased by 1,700% since 1980, pushing mass incarceration in the United States to the point where the nation now has 2.5 million people behind bars. These people are people of color and poor people, victims to the war on drugs, and laws like “three strikes” and mandatory minimums, but they are also immigrants whose migration in the United States has been increasingly criminalized, especially since the post-9/11 failure of immigration reform.
Each person locked up brings an average of $122 per day to private prisons, all of which is taxpayer money that comes from state and federal governments.
Even as groups protest the private-prison industry around the country, the harms of for profit incarceration and its stranglehold on U.S. criminal punishment and immigration policy are being felt in communities of color and poor communities around the country.
This week in Texas, mothers in detention at Geo Group’s Karnes Family Detention Center have launched their second hunger strike in one month, protesting inhumane conditions. These women are taking action in spite of retaliatory measures including solitary confinement in unheated rooms for hunger strikers and their families.
The Private Prison Divestment Campaign is led by criminal justice groups, immigrants rights groups, and black and African advocacy groups who have come together in a multi-sector coalition to end the era of mass incarceration.
To learn more about the story of this campaign, its goals and its previous victories, visit the Enlace campaign webpage.