A petition from Princeton Private Prison Divestment is garnering campus support.
Composed by a vast array of student social justice groups, PPPD is a coalition that demands Princeton University immediately divest from what they deem are “particularly egregious” private prison corporations. The petition, first reported on December 13th by The Daily Princetonian, outlines why the coalition believes divestment is so important.
One of its central argument rests on what PPPD sees as a contradiction between investment in private prisons and Princeton’s stated values, as articulated by its informal motto, “In the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” PPPD says this motto is irreconcilable with the practice of privately operated prisons. According to the petition, these companies “exploit [the] wholesale caging of bodies for economic gain,” and thus promote unfairly “punitive justice,” while providing “poorly regulated service.” The group charges that they “perpetuate a national civil rights crisis” that contradicts Princeton’s stated goals.
The petition also argues for divestment on the grounds of students’ “sustained concern” for incarcerated communities, as demonstrated by the university’s multitude of inmate engagement programs. These programs include the Petey Greene Volunteers, the Prison Teaching Initiative and the Princeton Employment Project.
Other arguments cited for divestment include “campus consensus” in favor of the measure. The group cites an April student referendum and the private prison divestment of other universities like Columbia University’s in 2015.
Since The Daily Princetonian’s article, the petition has garnered the support of Princeton faculty. When this story went to press, an abridged version of PPPD’s petition had signatures from 174 professors, about 16 percent of the university’s teaching staff.
Penn’s own private-prison divestment campaign, Penn Divest from Displacement wrote a 2015 editorial in The Daily Pennsylvanian, calling for the University to divest from two prison companies that the group charged with displacing minorities and other oppressed populations. The Penn administration never responded affirmatively to this campaign, while PDD’s Facebook page has not been updated since 2015 and its website is no longer active.