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.”
Students at Florida Atlantic University have formed a “Stop Owlcatraz” coalition to protest the naming rights deal. Last week the University’s Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to formally oppose giving stadium naming rights to GEO Group.
Carl Takei, staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project, said, “The students and faculty of FAU have made clear that they want nothing to do with GEO’s prison profiteering and record of abuse and neglect. President Saunders and the Board need to hit the brakes on this deal and face the facts about GEO.”
Dear President Saunders and Members of the Board of Trustees,
We, the undersigned, urge you to reconsider your agreement to sell the naming rights to the Florida Atlantic University football stadium to the GEO Group. As a coalition of Florida-‐based and national student and civil rights organizations, we strongly believe that FAU should not choose to compromise its values by allying itself with a company that has such a shameful record.
GEO Group, the second largest for-‐profit private prison corporation in the United States, is no stranger to public scrutiny. It 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.
Just last year, a federal judge harshly criticized the State of Mississippi for continuing its relationship with GEO Group despite serious mistreatment of young people at GEO’s Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which the judge called a “cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.” Not long afterward, Mississippi terminated the contract.
By naming your stadium for GEO Group, you make the university into a symbol of GEO’s efforts, lend the University’s name and reputation to legitimizing prison profiteering, and whitewash the Company’s record of abuse and neglect.
Already, FAU has been scrutinized in news sources in the United States and abroad, including The New York Times, as well as local media throughout the country; and is the subject of three online petitions that have garnered many thousands of signatures. If this affiliation is not dropped, FAU will continue to be the object of ridicule and draw scorn with each human rights abuse that occurs in GEO Group’s prisons.
Six million dollars is no small sum, but agreeing to associate GEO Group’s brand with the university in exchange for this money raises the question: What is Florida Atlantic University’s integrity worth? We ask you to rescind your agreement with this prison corporation.
All of Us or None
American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union of Florida
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Americans for Immigrant Justice
Beni Dakar & Associates
Brave New Foundation
Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform
Centro Maya Guatemalteco
Detention Watch Network DREAMActivist.org
The Dream Defenders
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Enlace
Farmworker Association of Florida Families of New Hampshire Inmates Families for Freedom
Families Now Involved
Fellowship of Reconciliation Florida Immigrant Coalition Florida Immigrant Youth Network Georgia Detention Watch Grassroots Leadership
Human Rights Defense Center
In The Public Interest
Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice
Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida
Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM, MN)
Institute of the Black World 21st Century
Justice Policy Institute
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Morningside Civic Assn.
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Lawyers Guild
N.C. Immigrant Rights Project
New Sanctuary Coalition
Palm Beach County Coalition for Immigrant Rights (PBCCIR)
People’s Advocacy Center for Training
Prison Concerns Committee, Episcopal Diocese of NH
Private Corrections Institute
Progressive Democrats of America
Racial Justice Action Center
Responsible Endowments Coalition
Students Working for Equal Rights
Students United For Public Education
South Florida Jobs with Justice
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United States Student Association
United We Dream
Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry
El Zócalo Immigrant Resource Center