Columbia University to Withdraw Investments in Private Prisons

A group of Columbia University students are celebrating today after their campaign for the school to divest in private prisons was successful.

A student group, Columbia Prison Divest, had been lobbying for the divestment since last year when it was publicized that the university owned shares in detention centers prison systems and militarized borders.

“The private prison model is hinged on maximizing incarceration to generate profit—they’re incentivized by convicting, sentencing and keeping people in prison for longer and longer times,” Columbia student and activist Dunni Oduyemi told CNN. “We don’t think about how the privileges and resources students get access to are premised upon violence done to people by virtue of their race, class or citizenship status.”

The Ivy League university announced today that it would be withdrawing its 220,000 shares—$4.35 billion—from G4S and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the world’s biggest private security firm and the biggest private prison association in the country, respectively.

“This action occurs within the larger, ongoing discussion of the issue of mass incarceration that concerns citizens from across the ideological spectrum,” a university statement read. “The decision follows…thoughtful analysis and deliberation by our faculty, students and alumni.”

A CCA spokesperson condemned the university’s decision, citing that the funds have been used to finance reentry programs for newly released inmates.

Oduyemi told CNN that he felt that the recent civil rights movement has awakened people to the systemic problems plaguing our society. “It seems to be a moment where people are making the connection between all the kinds of uprisings we’re seeing right now — #BlackLivesMatter, mass incarceration, and university movements,” he said to CNN. “We all recognize how much work has to be done in the future.”