Students Fight School for Contracting with Prison Shareholder

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Ithaca College students yesterday won a limited victory after staging a 34-hour sit-in to protest the university’s contract with Sodexho Marriott, the campus food contractor. Dozens of students occupied the Office of Admissions building to protest the corporation’s links to privatized prisons. Sodexho Marriott’s parent company, Sodexho Alliance, is a major shareholder in Corrections Corporation of America. [includes rush transcript]

Increasingly, America’s prisons are run by private corporations whose mission is to turn a profit rather than offer rehabilitation services.

The Ithaca students, who are required to buy a meal plan, demanded that the university sever ties with Sodexho. Although the university balked at that demand, it did agree to review policy and include students in decision-making.


  • Kate Rhee, Program Director of Prison Moratorium Project.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In the last week, there was a thirty-four-hour sit-in that was staged Upstate New York at Ithaca College, where students took over the administration offices. They were protesting the fact that they’re required to buy a meal plan that is provided by Sodexho Marriott. And Sodexho Marriott’s parent company, Sodexho Alliance, is a major shareholder in the Corrections Corporation of America.

We’re joined on the phone for a minute by Kate Rhee, who is with the Prison Moratorium Project. Explain what these connections are and why students are so concerned about them.

KATE RHEE: Sure. I just want to mention that the protests happened not only at Ithaca, but Buffalo State College, back-to-back actions, which was very fantastic. The tie is simple. Students are forced to buy a meal plan from Sodexho Marriott, a food service provider, which contracts at over 500 college campuses in North America. And Sodexho Marriott’s parent company, Sodexho Alliance, is the largest investor in the CCA, Corrections Corporation of America, which is the largest private-prison-building industry. And students are protesting the colleges’ ties to private prison, calling attention to the malpractices that have been covered widely in the media in the private prison industry in terms of cutting corners in order to save costs.

And the student actions have been nationwide. The success has been — it’s been very impressive how students have been able to organize, calling attention to not just the private prison industry, but to the larger prison industry that’s expanding. And also as students, they are able to call attention, especially in New York State, to the funding trade-off that has taken place over the last ten years, where we’ve seen a ballooning corrections budget for the prison construction, while the public higher education budget has been falling, almost a dollar-for-dollar trade-off.

AMY GOODMAN: If people want to get more information on Sodexho Marriott, Corrections Corporation of America and this university movement, where can they go on the web?

KATE RHEE: is a good site to go to. And then we can give them links to all of the other research that’s out there.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Kate Rhee of the Prison Moratorium Project, I want to thank you for being with us.

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