GEO Shareholder Meeting 2013
The GEO Group held its annual shareholders meeting at the Breakers hotel in Palm Beach. About 20 South Florida activists assembled from 7:30 am to 9:30 am to demonstrate against GEO’s Group’s legislative lobbying activities and human rights abuses. Simultaneously, shareholder activists unaffiliated with the student protest proposed and advocated for a shareholders resolution calling for GEO to disclose its lobbying practices.
Michael Crosby, of the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans supported the resolution during the shareholders meeting. In his statement supporting the resolution Crosby explained that, “GEO group does not disclose its trade association memberships and payments, and shareholders have no way to know if our company is making payments that ultimately are used for lobbying contrary to shareholders’ interests.”
It was evident that many shareholders agreed that the lack of lobbying transparency was unacceptable, as the resolution received 32.3 % of the vote excluding abstentions. Additionally, Michael Crosby reports that the two largest holders of GEO stock, ISS and Glass Lewis both supported and cast their votes for the resolution.
In addition to the shareholder action, 29 local and national human rights groups signed a letter in support of the resolution, and calling for legislators to reject funds from private prison companies. The letter states, “For the sake of our communities, our families, and our country, we call on GEO and CCA to be transparent and accountable for their efforts to legislate injustice, and on legislators to stop allowing these prison profiteers to influence the process.”
On February 22, the GEO Group and Florida Atlantic University announced GEO’s donation of $6 million to FAU in exchange for the stadium naming rights. On April 1st, broad based student and community advocacy efforts succeeded in ending the deal when GEO announced it was withdrawing the donation. While GEO is no longer sponsoring the stadium, FAU students are concerned because GEO is still sponsoring federal and state criminal and immigration laws, as a major lobbyist.
As past members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both GEO Group and CCA have been instrumental in drafting 85 model bills and resolutions over the past 2 decades that call for harsher criminal sentencing, expand detention of immigrants, and promote prison privatization (source: ACLU). Moreover, as reported by Amnesty International (source: Human Rights Now Blog), both GEO and CCA have given millions since 2004 (source: opensecrets.org) to influence legislators, such as Marco Rubio (source:opensecrets.org), to implement anti-immigrant policies which align with their interest to increase prison and detention populations. The number of people imprisoned under state and federal custody increased 772% percent between 1970 and 2009. Due largely to mandatory sentencing laws for non-violent drug crimes that leave judges and jurors little power in the sentencing process, 1 in 3 black men can expect to be incarcerated throughout his lifetime. “The basic issue is transparency to the shareholders about the actions the company may be taking with government officials that impact peoples’ lives,” said Reverend Michael Crosby, corporate responsibility agent for the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans, a sponsor of the resolution.
According to the activist group Dream Defenders, one of the letter’s signees, the lobbying practices and operating policies of GEO and CCA “have ravaged our State and made mockeries of morality and justice–all in the name of revenue. Their policy of people for profit and criminalizing color have far reaching consequences, resulting in laws that profile blacks & latinos as well as zero tolerance policies in our schools.”
In addition to its lobbying activities and policies which disproportionately target people of color, GEO also operates facilities with a long record of human rights abuses. As reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the US Department of Justice inspected the Mississippi-based Walnut Grove [Youth] Correctional Facility last year to find “staff and sexual misconduct against the children and teenage prisoners ‘brazen’ and among the worst that DOJ had seen in any facility anywhere in the nation” (National Juvenile Defender Center).
As a result of GEO’s policies to target immigrants and its record of maintaining inhumane conditions at detention centers, some members of South Florida’s Immigrant community feel intimidated and threatened by the possibility of detention by GEO. Local activist Arelly Baugh of the former Stop Owlcatraz! Coalition reports “Personally, as an immigrant standing up against a private prison that owns and runs inhumane detention centers, the fear of my own deportation is always in the back of my mind (and my family’s, back in Mexico). What reassures me, and makes me feel safe, is that I know that on this issue, immigrants like myself, are not alone.”
GEO Group shareholders conference at Breakers draws protest (The Palm Beach Daily News)