According to their web site, “The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) is the world’s second largest provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services with 98 facilities, approximately 78,500 beds, and 18,000 employees around the globe. GEO’s facilities are located in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa.” The GEO Group Inc’s gross profit for the three months ending in June of 2014 was $113 million. The GEO Group Inc’s gross profit for the twelve months ending in June of 2014 was $413 million. GEO was and is a highly profitable company, however, this is not the complete picture of this giant corporation.
Reports from several states have revealed that GEO’s prisons were known for inmate abuse, workplace violence, and fraudulent reporting at its U.S. facilities. One federal judge concluded that GEO “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate” at one Mississippi facility for juveniles.
The following were only five of the complaints against GEO:
1. In 2011, an Oklahoma jury ordered GEO to pay $6.5 million to the family of Ronald Sites, an inmate who was strangled to death by his cellmate in 2005.
2. In 2011, Florida Department of Corrections investigators visited GEO Group’s prison in South Bay for a drug sweep and couldn’t get in. No one was stationed at the front gate, and no one responded when state employees pushed the alert button and shined flashlights at the prison surveillance cameras.
3. The Florida Department of Children and Families said GEO Group’s neglect contributed to the death of a South Florida State Hospital patient. The man was being escorted by GEO Group employees to an appointment at Jackson Memorial Hospital when he hurled himself from the eighth story of a parking garage, the Miami Herald reported. A GEO Group employee should have stayed with the man at the first-story hospital entrance while the driver retrieved the van.
4. In 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued GEO Group for allowing sexual harassment of female employees at two prisons in Florence, Ariz. In one incident, a male GEO Group manager “grabbed and pinched the breasts and crotch of a female correctional officer,” the EEOC said. In another instance, a “female employee was forced onto a desk, where a male GEO employee shoved apart her legs and kissed her,” the agency claimed.
5. In 2009, a Texas appeals court upheld a $42.5 million verdict after a prisoner at a GEO Group facility was beaten to death four days before his release.
It is simple math. The goal of a private prison company is profit. Increasing the number of inmates means more profit. Spending less money on their prisons and the care of inmates equals more profit for GEO. The Public Interest, an oversight group, issued a report last year revealing the details of prison contracts between private corporations and states and local governments. The GEO Group had contracts requiring extremely high occupancy levels. If the prison occupancy declined below the level required in the contract, then the government paid the private company for empty prison beds.
GEO is located in Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is having in October a $10,000-per-person VIP fundraiser at the home of GEO Group Chief Executive Officer George Zoley. Gov. Scott has long advocated the “benefits” of private prisons in Florida despite the fact that private prisons are now costing Florida more money than the state prisons. At one point, Florida Atlantic University, with a six million dollar contribution from GEO, was naming its stadium ‘Geo Group Stadium.’ After public protest, this brilliant idea was dropped by the the university and GEO. A 2012 Associated Press report found that GEO and the two other largest private prison firms had spent $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists over the course of ten years.
GEO has also invested significantly in immigration detention facilities. In 2012, members of Congress demanded an investigation of the GEO Broward facility after reports that the center was holding immigrants who should have been released and that it was not providing adequate medical care to the detainees.
The company has announced to investors that it will continue to grow and expand since private prisons are a growth industry. The growth of GEO is a sad commentary on the United States. The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates, but only has 5% of the world’s population.
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com