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Monday, April 8, 2013
- As reported by Amnesty International, the ACLU, NPR, Social Policy, and The Nation, the private prison industry lobbies for anti-immigrant legislation in order to build more immigration detention facilities, fill beds, and turn a profit. GEO is associated with the lobbying group, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which helped draft Arizona's anti-immigrant SB1070 legislation, and, after it passed, gave funds to 83% of the legislators who voted for it. From 2003 to 2012, GEO spent more than $2 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in Florida alone. From 2004 to 2012, it spent $2.7 million lobbying the federal government. In its 2010 SEC filings, GEO stated that "Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level could materially adversely impact us" (p. 34). As one of the top 50 graduates of Hispanic students in the nation, FAU is supporting a company that supports laws that detain and deport its students' families.
- GEO lobbies for harsh sentencing laws for non-violent offenses, which have led to mass incarceration of people of color. The US imprisons more people than any country in the world. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 3 Black men will be incarcerated in their lifetime, most for non-violent drug crimes, leading some to call the prison system "the new Jim Crow." GEO is affiliated with the business lobbying group, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), which has drafted 85 model bills and resolutions that required tougher criminal sentencing, expanded immigration enforcement and promoted prison privatization. GEO is transparent that its business model depends on mass incarceration, stating in its 2010 SEC filing, "the demand for our correctional and detention facilities and services...could be adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws" (p. 34). The Nation magazine has called FAU's stadium "Ground Zero in the Fight Against the New Jim Crow."
Other sources: Fact sheet from the NAACP, Infographic on The New Jim Crow
- GEO has a disturbing record of human rights violations not only in the legislation it supports, but also in its facilities. In one facility in Mississippi alone, GEO was responsible for rampant physical and sexual abuse of minors and adult prisoners and denial of medical care. The judge who ruled against GEO in Mississippi said "The sum of these actions and inactions… paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world." Geo claims it was not managing the facility in Mississippi when these reports were made, but this is a lie: the ACLU has the real timeline here. Another independent report on a different GEO facility in Mississippi also found that it limited, and at times denied, healthcare (p.6).These Human Rights abuses may be caused by GEO’s attempt to cut costs: “Privately managed prisons attempt to control costs by regularly providing lower levels of staff benefits, salary, and salary advancement than publicly-run facilities (equal to about $5,327 less in annual salary for new recruits and $14,901 less in maximum annual salaries). On average, private prison employees also receive 58 hours less training than their publicly employed counterparts. Consequently, there are higher employee turnover rates in private prisons than in publicly operated facilities” (source). Further, low pay and turnover may “contribute to the higher levels of violence seen in the private sector” (source).
Other sources:Sourced fact sheet, Interviews with Viridiana from Dream Activist
Posted by Hila Knutsen at 11:23 PM
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Open Letter to President Saunders and Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Barbar from the Stop #Owlcatraz Coalition
Open Letter to President Saunders and Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Barbar
from the Stop #Owlcatraz Coalition
By signing a $6 million stadium-naming contract with human rights abuser the GEO Group, you betrayed the stated values of Florida Atlantic University. You violated our principles of “equal rights and equal justice,” “mutual regard for the rights and liberties of all persons,” “social responsibility,” and “ethical standards in all areas of human activity”, and disregarded many voices within the university community. To avoid addressing this injustice, you have gone to the media and exaggerated the actions of student demonstrators. In the face of these distractions, we, the Stop #Owlcatraz Coalition, remain committed to disseminating the truth.
The GEO Group has a well-documented history of human rights abuses. Amnesty International reports that GEO lobbies for anti-immigrant legislation. In addition, the NAACP has voted to abolish all private prisons due to the industry’s lobbying for mass incarceration, because the private prison industry’s business model depends on growing numbers of prisoners and lengthening sentences. (GEO itself states this here, on page 34.) We, a coalition of FAU students, faculty, staff, and alumni, hold our university’s values dear. We will not stand idly by as our university’s stadium advertises a company that understaffs their facilities, under trains and underpays their staff, limits (and at times denies) health care (page 6), and creates and perpetuates dangerous conditions to maximize profit. We stand unwavering in our demand for you to uphold our university’s commitment to justice by reversing the stadium naming rights deal with GEO Group immediately.
On Friday, March 22, about a dozen students gathered on the MacArthur campus with signs reading “We, the HC [Honors College] politely request an academic discussion”.
Faculty at FAU requested an academic dialogue. President Saunders, you declined. And, in your haste to avoid addressing the demonstrators, their request, and the facts about GEO that we and the media have consistently presented, you hit a student demonstrator with your car. Then, without hesitation, you left the scene; drove the wrong way out of the parking-lot and ran two stop signs while five police officers stood by. The student demonstrator is an exemplary member of the student body, an Elite Owl Leadership Ambassador, an Honors College senior, and an integral member of several active and award-winning clubs who bridges two campuses. She and her family still have not heard from you. Ignoring the truth does not make it go away, and speaking to the press before your students and affected individuals leads us to further question your priorities. The truth is that you, President Saunders, evaded an academic conversation about the GEO Group, physically harmed an exemplary student, and then rationalized your behavior with allegations of fear. (Images here.) Chairman Barbar, you were not present, yet demanded an apology from students in an attempt to obscure the facts of the hit and run.
We demonstrate peacefully because we believe in human rights and in FAU, and we respect deeply every person’s own right to safety. Free speech is not a privilege at FAU - it is a basic human right enshrined not only in the Constitution, but in FAU’s statement of values. The truth remains unchanged: we are, and always have been, committed to nonviolence as both a tactic and an ideal.
Speaking truth to power in the face of injustice is not an act of aggression; it is an act of integrity. We remain committed to FAU’s values. We ask you, President Saunders and Chairman Barbar, to do the same.
President Saunders and Chairman Barbar, it is not too late to end your efforts to divert attention from the truth. The University Faculty Senate of FAU, over 67,000 people who have signed petitions (these, these, these), and human rights organizations such as the ACLU and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights all stand with the truth. You still have the chance to stop this onslaught of negative publicity for our university by breaking the deal with GEO; we call on you to do so.
The Stop #Owlcatraz Coalition
Posted by Hila Knutsen at 9:51 AM
Saturday, March 30, 2013
GEO Fact Sheet
2012 (June): OSHA fines totaling $104,100 for violations at GEO group prison in Meridian, Mississippi.
“This employer knowingly put workers at risk of injury or death by failing to implement well recognized measures that would protect employees from physical assaults by inmates,” Clyde Payne, OSHA’s director in Jackson, Miss., said in a statement. (PBP, 8/25/12; US Dept of Labor http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=22536)
2012: Inmate awarded $1.2 million for negligence resulting in violence that cost him his vision in one eye. (PBP 9/13/12)
October 2011-February 2012: Five preventable deaths in GEO-operated East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a prison for people living with mental illness. (Daily Kos, 4/29/12; http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/04/29/1086699/-Billion-dollar-GEO-prison-for-profit-group-abandons-its-Mississippi-cesspool)
2011 (June): A jury verdict for $6.5 million was returned against the Company in a wrongful death action brought by the Personal Representative of the Estate of Ronald Sites, a former inmate at the Company’s Lawton Oklahoma Correctional Facility (GEO Annual Report, 2012, p. 87). The inmate was strangled to death by his cellmate in 2005 (PBP, 8/25/12).
2011: Florida Department of Children and Families cite neglect that led to Florida man’s death. ((PBP 8/25/12)
2011: New Mexico Department of Corrections fines GEO Group$1.1 million for understaffing one of its prisons (The American Independent, 11/15/11; http://americanindependent.com/205722/new-mexico-fines-prison-company-for-inadequate-staffing-2)
2011: Justice Policy Institute report highlights GEO’s political strategies of working to make money through harsh policies and longer sentences. (Justice Policy Institute) Strategies include lobbying elected officials.
2011 (August): State inspectors are unable to get into South Bay Correctional Institute in Palm Beach County to do a surprise drug sweep. After 20 minutes of trying to get someone’s attention, including shining flashlights at security cameras, the state inspectors give up and leave. (FCIR, 8/26/11)
2011: Corrections secretary, New Mexico hired previously by GEO as a warden at Lea County Correctional, the very facility for which the company is now being fined. (Am Independent, 11/15/11)
2010: Immigrant who overstayed visa denied asthma inhaler in immigrant detention center in Deerfield Beach. (Based on interview with victim; PBP, 8/25/12).
2010: Lawsuit in Arizona by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for sexual harassment and molestation of female employees by GEO Group manager. (USEEOC; PBP, 8/25/12)
2010: DOJ investigation of Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. Findings (2012): Youth were sexually preyed upon by staff and all too frequently suffered grievous harm, including death. (US Department of Justice, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/March/12-crt-352.html)
2008: Seattle University School of Law Report claims immigrants at a Washington State detention center run by the GEP group Inc. are being held in conditions that violate both international and US laws (ABC News, 8/5/ 08; http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=5466166&page=2#.UUt_eoU78YI).
2008: Inmate dies after a month of solitary confinement without proper alert system for his epileptic condition. Uprising in Reeves County Detention Center, Texas. Concerns: 5 deaths bet 8/08 and 3/09 (Texas Observer, 10/ 8/09; http://www.texasobserver.org/the-pecos-insurrection/).
2008: Two Inmates, one with schizophrenia and a thyroid condition and the other with cystic fibrosis, die after being denied their medication. (Delco Times, 10/16/08; also:Philadelphia Weekly & Fox News, respectively)
2008: United Methodist Church Resolution 3281 - Welcoming the Migrant to the US, which advocated the "elimination of privately-operated detention centers." http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=4951419&ct=6480621
2007: Texas canceled an $8 million contract with GEO and closed the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center. Inspectors found feces on floors and walls, padlocked emergency exits and overuse of pepper spray on young inmates. (PBP, 8/25,12).
2007 (October): Texas Youth Commission removed inmates from one of the company’s juvenile facilities after an official visited and determined the conditions were “unsafe” (ABC News, 8/5/ 08).
2007 (August): several hundred detainees at the facility fell ill with abdominal pain and diarrhea from food poisoning. Detainees told that they had to wait till morning till the clinic opened, although they were supposed to have round the clock care. (ABC News, 8/5/ 08).
2007: Lawsuit filed over medical negligence in North Carolina. Neglected conditions include severe, festered tooth decay requiring surgery, and boils indicative of MRSA improperly diagnosed by company nurse as “a sign of aging” to save medical costs. (PBP, 2/28/13)
2007: Lawsuit by mentally ill prisoner citing denial of crutches, withheld medication, isolation and abuse at Pearsall Texas. (http://closereeves.weebly.com/learn-about-geo-group-scandals.html; http://www.texasprisonbidness.org/lawsuits/)
2006: Sued for overbilling State of FL of 12.7 million in false claims. (GEO Annual Report 2006)
2005-2009: At least 8 died GEO Group-operated George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, the state's only privately run jail (Daily Kos, 4/29/12).
2005: Contract with state of Michigan cancelled after the daily cost per prisoner for the private facility was higher than that for 33 of the state’s 37 publicly-operated facilities.” (Grassroots Leadership, 12/20/12; http://grassrootsleadership.org/releases/2012/12/national-and-state-groups-urge-governor-not-repeat-failed-prison-venture)
2001: Inmate incarcerated for nonviolent drug offense is beaten to death—corrections officers report that warden and assistant warden watched and laughed. Inmate’s family later files suit and GEO pays $42.5 million. (PBP, 8/25/12; www.texasprisonbidness.org/geo-group/settlement-reached-record-br
Posted by Hila Knutsen at 4:24 PM