The Prison Divestment Movement

Feminist philosopher Christia Mercer on why universities should divest from prisons.

Columbia’s prison divestment campaign called special attention to G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, and to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States, whose guards are reported to use “extreme isolation arbitrarily and abusively,” exposing prisoners to contaminated water, and delayed medical care, causing “needless suffering.” As a Columbia Prison Divest organizer made the point, “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.” In words reminiscent of the apartheid campaign, she added, “We don’t think about how the privileges and resources students get access to are premised on violence done to people by virtue of their race, class, or citizenship status.”