On Monday June 22, the Columbia University Board of Trustees decided to pull endowment funds out of the private prison industry and enact a policy that will block future investment in any company that operates lockups. Organizers say it's the first American institution of higher learning to make that move.
The ruling came after 16 months of pressure from Students Against Mass Incarceration, a black student-led campus group with the aim of abolishing prisons. After discovering in late 2013 that Columbia had $10 million invested in two for-profit prison companies—Corrections Corporation of America and G4S Secure Solutions USA—the group launched Columbia Prison Divest, a relentless campaign of advocacy and protest to sway university president Lee Bollinger and trustees to divest. Their campaign drew support from students in all 26 of the university’s undergraduate and graduate schools along the way.
From the University of Central Florida to the City University of New York there are similar campaigns operating on campuses around the country. Click through to learn more about the National Prison Divestment Campaign.