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April 2, 2013

Protests scuttle private prison group's plans to get name on university stadium

As reported in this prior post a few weeks back, the private prison corporation GEO Group Inc. had a deal in the works to give a huge check to a university in Florida and to get a stadium named after it in return.  But, as highlighted in this new Huffington Post piece, the deal is off:

It was a move that baffled sports marketing experts: Florida Atlantic University struck a deal in February to name its football stadium after a private prison company.

But after more than a month of backlash from students, faculty and human rights groups, the GEO Group Inc. pulled out of the $6 million deal with Florida Atlantic on Monday, citing the "distraction" it had caused for the company and the university.

"What was originally intended as a gesture of GEO's goodwill to financially assist the University's athletic scholarship program has surprisingly evolved into an ongoing distraction to both of our organizations," GEO Group chairman and chief executive George Zoley said in a statement released by the university on Monday.

Soon after the deal was announced in mid-February, it got attention in national news outlets and garnered a segment on the Colbert Report. Citing lawsuits against the company and federal reports detailing horrible conditions at a GEO-operated youth prison in Mississippi, host Stephen Colbert quipped: "This criticism is just one of the downsides of paying millions of dollars to have people pay attention to your company …. People start paying attention to your company."

The GEO Group is based in Boca Raton, Fla., just a few miles from Florida Atlantic University. Zoley, the company's chairman and chief executive, received bachelor's and master's degrees from the university and was a former chairman of the board of trustees. The university had been seeking a corporate sponsor for two years to pay down the debt on its newly built stadium, and the GEO Group pledged to pay $6 million over 10 years in exchange for the naming rights.

Student groups at Florida Atlantic quickly coalesced against the GEO Group Stadium deal, dubbing the facility "Owlcatraz" -- a play on the university's mascot, an owl. They staged a sit-in outside the university president's office in February and demanded that university leadership organize forums and discussions about GEO's human rights record.

The school's faculty senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution against the stadium name last month, noting that GEO Group's business practices "do not align with the missions of the university."...

The GEO Group's revenue has nearly tripled over the last decade, as the private prison company has captured greater shares of state and federal prison populations, including facilities that hold undocumented immigrants. GEO has also donated more than $1.2 million to the Florida Republican Party over the last three election cycles. Republicans in the state legislature last year came close to approving a massive expansion of private prisons in south Florida, an opportunity that the GEO Group mentioned frequently in calls with investors....

In a statement, Florida Atlantic President Mary Jane Saunders said Zoley and the company "have been loyal supporters of this university" and that she was thankful for all organizations that give to support "our mission, our pursuit of academic excellence and valuable contributions to this community."...

It is unclear where the university will get the money needed to pay off debt for its stadium. FAU had been searching for more than two years for a corporate sponsor before GEO Group agreed to pay $6 million over 10 years. The university built the $70 million football stadium in 2011, borrowing more than $45 million.

Some recent and older related posts: 

April 2, 2013 at 04:41 PM | Permalink

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It would appear that Florida Atlantic has problems beyond the naming of its football stadium.

http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_s_palm_beach_county/boca_raton/dr-deandre-poole-florida-atlantic-university-professor-in-jesus-stomping-debacle-put-on-leave

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 2, 2013 5:14:03 PM

Private prisons have rightfully been challenged based upon the business model, in which such prisons would have the incentive increase both the quantity and sentence lengths of inmates, which also includes profits from recidivists that ostensibly threatens community safety.

A more robust business model would actually reduce the profits paid per prisoner, but would incorporate a payment based upon the successful reintegration of a former convict into society, such as successful job or school procurement, residential stability, and overall successful community reintegration. Such payments would be reduced, or even penalties paid, if offenders commit new crimes. Obviously, this would have to be done on a case by case basis; first offenders would be the likely subjects for such renumeration while recidivists may result in other payment alternatives.

But the current model is broken, and lawsuits will ultimately make the private prison alternative less cost effective without massive changes. We need something that will placate victims and law & order types along with the proven rehabilitative methods that will provide for true community reintegration, at least from the first-timers, as well as those who are not "institutionalized" in their mindsets.

Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with my former creative sentencing recommendations that encompassed both punishment and rehab in two distinctly different phases of the sentence, not just as zero-sum percentages of finite sentence lengths.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Apr 2, 2013 7:05:47 PM

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