The editorial “FAU’s damaging defense,” was right on target. Unfortunately, Florida Atlantic University President Mary Jane Saunders didn’t come close to meeting the heavy burden to justify acceptance of The GEO Group naming rights in her meeting with students and others on Friday.
Instead, evasiveness continued to characterize FAU’s response – when you could even hear it. Those who asked for the president to speak more loudly were ignored. Her response seemed to be that GEO was so generous as to offer the money, so we took it.
I read of the many, many times that GEO has been accused of serious violations of human rights. What will it take before FAU authorities can open their ears and hear? So far unmentioned is GEO’s participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council. Corporations pay for, and write laws, often to their benefit, that are offered to state legislators who meet with them. One example is the anti-immigrant legislation that was passed in Arizona and copy-catted in some states but rejected in Florida. Who would benefit by having more immigrants detained simply for lack of legal status? The private prison industry.
One student from the social work school noted the code of ethics for social workers. I could barely hear it, but it seemed she was saying that she could not imagine how she or others could continue to be trained as social workers in a school that named its stadium after a violator of human rights.
School legitimizes human rights abuser
FAU’s decision to name its new stadium after The GEO Group, which runs private prisons, is a bewildering and distressing move. It gives legitimacy to a company that has a well-documented history of mistreating people in its care, and to an industry that takes the responsibility for prisoners out of the public domain.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Instead of trying to address the causes of that outrageous fact, we have turned it into a lucrative private enterprise. FAU President Mary Jane Saunders commented that in America today it would be difficult to find “a big, complex organization without problems.” With this affiliation, FAU is adding to its own.
GENEVIEVE HARRIET GOLDSTEIN
Palm Beach Gardens
Wrong lesson to teach students
Your editorial description “transformational” regarding the FAU/GEO Group $6 million football stadium deal is right on. This is a university that strives for greatness, inclusiveness and diversity, so why teach students that moral issues are trumped by money? It does not seem so long ago that great universities taught students to fight for justice.
Dirty money taints deal
I find it interesting that FAU President Mary Jane Saunders was not aware of the many legal issues that GEO has had.
The idea that The GEO Group will make money based on how many people it incarcerates is cause for concern, whether one has attended college or not. It does not take a degree to feel uneasy about such a fact, especially because this is the gateway to human rights violations.
FAU is hoping to profit from this dirty money and to desensitize our community to the fact that human beings are being mistreated or incarcerated at a price against our civil rights and that men and women will lose their jobs to lower-paid employees. Instead, FAU should be teaching our children and society as a whole about kindness and respect for one another.
Hooters a better sponsor for Owls
I can understand all the controversy over the naming rights for the Florida Atlantic University football stadium. Rather than GEO, a much more appropriate sponsor for the FAU Owls would have been Hooters.
West Palm Beach
Prison-education link a new moral low
I was shocked to hear that will name its football stadium for The GEO Group. What kind of message are the students getting from the naming of their stadium for the second-largest private prison corporation?
Is there a place for progressive faculty and students in that environment? Is there room for dissent? It’s bad enough that America has more prisoners than China and that we are becoming a punitive society rather than a democracy, but we are stooping to a new moral low by daring to connect private prisons to education.
West Palm Beach
Gratitude to GEO a pathetic notion
One word that comes to mind regarding Monday’s letters to the editor about how the community should be grateful to GEO is “pathetic.”
It is obvious that these two letters were written by insiders with conflicts of interest. If only 10 percent of the allegations about the human rights abuses are true, there’s a problem. Based on the remarks by FAU President Mary Jane Saunders, it is evident that integrity and ethics are lacking at this educational institution. What a real-life lesson for its students. If $500,000 annually for 12 years is that crucial to an institution such as FAU, there are much deeper issues.
West Palm Beach
Private firms maximise use of tax dollars
To get the most bang for its tax buck, governments have been turning more and more “government” jobs over to private industry. And private enterprise seems to be doing a fantastic job. How else does an outfit like The GEO Group make so much money that it can afford to give a half million dollars a year for naming rights to a stadium for 12 years?
The federal government once handled all the mail. Then Congress decided to make it a quasi-government outfit. How many years after that was it that this new outfit could afford to support Lance Armstrong for several years in his efforts to win the Tour de France. How can I not understand why private enterprise can do so much more with the same tax dollars? What am I missing?
GEO concealing its shoddy record
In his commentary “GEO Group being criticized unfairly over FAU donation,” The GEO Group’s Pablo Paez writes that criticisms of the for-profit prison company are based on a “misunderstanding of the facts,” but his defense of GEO’s record rests on factual misrepresentations.
Mr. Paez claims that constitutional violations at GEO’s youth prison in Mississippi “preceded GEO’s involvement” and that GEO “achieved significant improvements” between 2010 and 2012, when Mississippi terminated its contract. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded in 2012 that “key personnel, policies and training … did not change substantially, despite GEO’s claim that it made corrective reforms.” A federal judge wrote in 2012, “Nothing has curtailed actions of the staff and indifference of management officials to the constant violations.”
GEO’s refusal to cop to its own record raises the question: Why should GEO be entrusted with public contracts to rehabilitate prisoners before they return to our communities?
Editor’s note: Carl Takei is staff attorney for the Americans for Civil Liberties National Prison Project.
Leaders did what’s best for FAU
Congratulations to FAU President Mary Jane Saunders for being a leader who actually showed some leadership.
The GEO Group donated a much-needed $6 million to FAU. Immediately a bunch of poorly informed demonstrators decided they didn’t like where the money was coming from. Had they done their homework, they would realize that The GEO Group has been the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention and community reentry services for almost 30 years. They provide over 18,000 jobs worldwide and provide their services much more effectively and efficiently than any government entity could hope to provide them.
As for accusations of mistreatment of prisoners, I challenge anyone to name a single public, private or government organization employing more than 18,000 people that has not had to deal with a discrimination, ethics or criminal violation at some point. Congratulations to Dr. Saunders and the board of trustees for standing up for what’s best for FAU.