GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut, is the second largest for-profit prison company in the world. GEO owns 101 facilities including prisons, detention centers, and rehabs for both adults and youth. Opposition to The Geo Group is around human rights violations and cover-ups, an opposition to private prisons, prison/industrial complex opposition, Geo group’s involvement in The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), controversy around lobbying, and a number of other oppositions.
GEO Group works with the following government agencies:
Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
United States Marshal Services (USMS)
Some (but not all) examples of Human Rights Violations:
Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility: Prison guards engaged in sexual intercourse with the prisoners and smuggled illegal drugs into the facilities, and prison authorities denied education and medical care. Former warden and eight-term mayor, William Grady Sims, resigned and pleaded guilty to removing a female inmate to a motel for sex and pressuring her to lie about it.
Broward Transitional Center: The only privately owned immigration detention center in Florida. Reports state substandard or callous medical care, and many detainees are not given adequate amounts of food, are pressured to sign papers they do not understand, and are prevented from openly discussing their cases with attorneys. Many detainees were also found to have had no serious criminal record, or no criminal record at all, and despite this were being held at the facility for weeks or months.
Pompano Beach’s Ted Deutch has written a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), demanding an investigation, and as of March 2013, this letter had yet to be met with a response.
Threats from high-ranking Geo officials: Thomas M. Wierdsma, a Senior Vice President for Project Development at GEO confirms he said he would use his position of power to deport his son’s Hungarian wife. Wierdsma threatened to deport Beatrix Szeremi after she went to the police to report a long history of domestic abuse.
Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility:
A series of health and safety and compliance reviews by the Texas Department of State Health Services found GEO Care’s Montgomery facility rife with patient neglect, forced seclusion, denial of access to phones and family visits and administering of medication without patient consent”
Coke County Juvenile Justice Center: The Texas Youth Commission shuttered GEO’S Coke County Juvenile Justice Center after reports of rampant sexual abuse of the young inmates and a number of suicides.
Reeves County Detention Center: In 2009 inmates rioted, in part because of poor health care.
GEO Group Cover-Up:
GEO group has recently been in the news because of opposition of its 6 million dollar purchase of the stadium naming rights at Florida State University. In the wake of this controversy GEO group has responded with a slue of propaganda in the form of press conferences, speaking at local government meetings, press releases, and most shockingly GEO group has gone so far as to delete the “controversies” section of the Geo Group’s Wikipedia page shortly after the FAU controversy began. At this point the “controversies” section has been added back to their Wikipedia site.
Private Prison Opposition:
The argument for private prisons is that they save government money by lowering the cost of operating the prison. This means that private companies must run a prison on less money than a public prison while also paying tens of millions of dollars a year to corporate executives and run a profit to provide a return to investors. Corners are inevitably cut, and it is therefore no surprise that there are a significant number of lawsuits alleging abuses in privately-run prisons. The Bureau of Justice Assistance reported that private prisons experienced 49% more assaults on staff and 65% more inmate-to-inmate assaults than public prisons.
Prison/Industrial Complex Opposition:
The prison system is a mirror of the racist, patriarchal, classist, violent, system that we live in. The prison/industrial complex disproportionately incarcerates people of color, high percentages of women in jail are in for acts of self-defense and un-violent crimes such as sex work and procession of drugs, and trans people are put in unsafe situations, solidarity confinement, and are mis-gendered. High percentages of people are in jail for crimes having to do with low-income status and lack of access to resources and therefore in order to survive resort to the sale of drugs, stealing, and other crimes associated with lack of resources. Jails are also used to stifle political discourse by locking up long time activists, and creating a culture of fear around activist work because of threat of prison. Two examples of this are all of the Black Panthers who are currently in prison, and the Green Scare.
NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!:
GEO group manages detention centers, which hold undocumented immigrants who often have no criminal offenses. Their “crimes” are simply coming to the United States for opportunity or to seek refuge. Immigration detention has become big business for GEO in the past decade. According to [one] report, the number of people in immigration detention centers has tripled, from 95,000 in 2001 to 300,000 in 2007. On any given day, nearly 30,000 immigrants are detained, up from just 5,000 in 1994. This system of locking up undocumented people is violent, racist, breaks up families, and creates a culture of fear for people in this country who are undocumented. NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!
Denial of Lobbying:
Time and time again GEO group goes on the record saying that they do not lobby, but here are the facts:
From 2003-2012, GEO spent more than $2 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in Florida alone
From 2004-2012, they spent $2.7 million lobbying the federal government.
3rd quarter 2008 Lobbying Activity Report filed with the Secretary of the US Senate and Clerk of the Us House of Representatives showing that Lionel Aguirre was paid $60,000 by GEO to lobby U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)
3rd quarter 2012 Lobbying Activity Report filed with the Secretary of the US Senate and Clerk of the Us House of Representatives showing that Lionel Aguirre was paid $30,000 by GEO to lobby U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security – Dept of (DHS)
Membership in The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC):
GEO group has gone on the record saying that they do not do lobby government agencies to tighten immigration laws. You can read a statement from them here:
“Other critics have advanced the notion that GEO has lobbied to influence and somehow toughen immigration policy, which is simply inaccurate and based purely on speculation. Our company and our industry have consistently and unambiguously refuted these claims.”
Geo group is a member of ALEC, which is a corporation that works to write mock legislation with multi-national corporations and different government officials to pass laws that will benefit the business of the corporations who are a part of ALEC. Arizona’s SB 1070, which gives all law enforcement officers the right to demand citizenship documents from all people who might “look” undocumented (thus increasing racial profiling, harassment of brown people, an increase of undocumented people being put in detention centers, and creating a culture of fear in Native and Latino communities) was drafted by ALEC.
Human Rights Violations: