Monthly Archives: April 2013

VIDEO: TWAC occupies GEO headquarters

On April 9, 2013, dozens of activists from the previous week’s Trans and Womyn’s Action Camp (TWAC) descended on the national headquarters of GEO Group, a for-profit prison company with a record of shady lobbying deals and human rights violations.

TWAC Occupies For-Profit Prison Company “GEO Group” Headquarters

officeblock1

On Tuesday morning, April 9, dozens of activists from this week’s Trans and Womyn’s Action Camp (TWAC) descended on the national headquarters for Geo Group, a for-profit prison company with a record of shady lobbying deals and human rights violations.

GEO Group Banner DropThe morning’s activities began when the trans and female activists entered the office.  Most began a song and dance singing, “Tearing families apart; Geo’s making money.  Lobbying for racist laws; Geo’s making money.  Locking up all our youth; Geo’s making money.”  Meanwhile, the four arrestees locked themselves to the office doors and three other activists dropped a 30 x 15 ft banner which read ‘Millions Behind Bars = Billions for Geo-Who’s the Real Criminal?” from the fourth floor of the building.  When Police arrived most of the protesters moved to public property to continue to rally as Police arrived with four trucks and three officer vehicles in a futile attempt to cut through the activists locks.  Police was told that they would unlock themselves if Geo CEO George Zoley would come to speak to them.  When the request was refused, the activists said they would unlock if police would let the media in.  Police refused and continued to restrict the media to a ‘staging’ area nearly a quarter mile away.  Eventually, the large handles to doors of the Geo office were removed in order to arrest the protesters.
TGI at protestOne of the protesters, a transgender woman from Liberia named Grace Lawrence who was held in immigrant detention centers from 2003-2006, explained why fighting against for-profit prisons and Geo Group is so important to her.  “In private detention centers, trans people are put in isolation, which is solitary confinement, for 23hours a day.” Grace was granted asylum, but she continues to work for prisoner rights in an effort to spare other immigrants and trans people from mistreatment. Even as an advocate, she finds it harder to address human rights violations within for-profit detention facilities: “Each time I called ICE, they would say they are not responsible for what goes on in those private facilities.”

By locking down and protesting, TWAC sent a message to GEO that pulling out of the FAU stadium deal doesn’t get them off the hook, and the struggle against for-profit prison and detention centers will continue. Cancelling their contract with FAU does nothing to change Geo’s long record of human rights abuse of detainees at taxpayer expense, nor does it diminish Geo’s profit-driven influence on anti-immigrant legislation and mass incarceration.
outside1
Geo Group owns and operates 96 for-profit prisons and detention centers.  Using tax-payer funding, they push legislation that targets youth, poor, transgender, and people of color in order to increase incarceration rates and their own profits.  Over the last decade, GEO has spent millions lobbying the federal government.  This lobbying has paid off.  In 2005 they received $33.6 million in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts, and in 2011 they received $216 million in ICE contracts. GEO group is a member of ALEC, a membership group that works to write model legislation with multi-national corporations and influences legislators to pass laws that will benefit its corporate members.

In for profit prisons, overhead reduction efforts turn the focus away from safety, justice, and rehabilitation in order to make a few people rich.  Allowing rampant sexual assault, withholding proper medical care, and turning the prison into a sweat-shop producing consumer goods are just a few examples of how Geo Group treats humans as livestock to be used for the benefit of greedy CEOs.

This protest comes on the heels of TWAC, a weeklong gathering of almost 100 female and transgender activists to share skills and campaign information, and organize opposition to the prison-industrial complex. Prisons and immigrant detention centers, Geo’s primary investments, target poor people, people of color, and transgender individuals. As female and transgender organizers, we are more vulnerable to violence within these institutions. Geo has a clear record of human rights abuses within its facilities.

outside2

GEO – FAU stadium deal called off!

A Timeline Recap of FAU’s Stadium Deal with GEO Group (FAU University Press)

FAU closed its doors on Owlcatraz on April 1.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously on renaming the stadium after the GEO Group — a private prison company — after they agreed to donate $6 million over the course of 12 years. The company has been the defendant in over a hundred lawsuits involving human rights violation in the past seven years, including sexual mistreatment of inmates and illegal drug smuggling in their detention facilities.

The deal sparked controversy as several students, faculty, and community members outwardly opposed having the company’s name on the stadium.

After six weeks of media scrutiny, student protests, and a faculty consensus that the GEO Group deal to rename the stadium should not hold up, the GEO Group withdrew from the agreement to rename the stadium.

Student protests defeat private prison bid to name college stadium (tv.msnbc.com)

Florida Atlantic University has dropped its plan to name a stadium after GEO Group, a for-profit prison corporation, after weeks of protests by students and civil rights groups. GEO had pledged $6 million to the school in exchange for the naming rights to the stadium.

Coalition of More Than 60 Groups Calls on Florida Atlantic President, Trustees to Stop Stadium Naming Agreement with Prison Corporation

A coalition of more than 60 civil rights, immigrant, student, and faith organizations has sent a letter to Florida Atlantic University President Mary Jane Saunders and the Board of Trustees calling for the university to rescind its agreement to name the school’s football stadium after for-profit private prison corporation GEO Group.

“We strongly believe that FAU should not choose to compromise its values by allying itself with a company that has such a shameful record,” the letter reads.  The GEO Group, it continues, “has been the subject of numerous lawsuits involving injury or death of incarcerated and detained people, sexual abuse, and security failures. They have failed state audits and been fined by a federal agency for willfully failing to take reasonable precautions to protect the safety of their own employees.”

“GEO Group is a company with a record marred by human rights abuses, lawsuits, and unnecessary deaths of people in their custody,” said Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, one of the letter’s signatories. “It is outrageous to allow a public university’s stadium to be named after a corporation that profits off of incarceration and detention of immigrants.”

Read the rest of this entry