Thursday, March 7, 2013

Will A Stadium "Naming" Deal Celebrate the Perverse Private Prison Industry?

The GEO Group, one of two nationally prominent private prison corporations in America has just signed an agreement with Florida Atlantic University to "name" the football stadium at FAU.  Understandably, this has caused an uproar from many on the faculty and in the student body at Florida Atlantic.  "The GEO Group Stadium" at Florida Atlantic University immediately conjures up images of the now retired "Enron Stadium" where the Houston Astros used to take the field, except that The GEO Group is undoubtedly more sinister and harmful to United States citizens than Enron ever was (a fact absolutely lost on FAU President Mary Jane Saunders until student and faculty protests erupted).

The GEO Group is a private prison company.  As I have written about extensively, private prison corporations essentially collect taxpayer funds from federal and state governments (a "per diem" or per bed fee) in order to house prisoners on behalf of these governments and do so with an immoral profit maximization motivation. Private prison companies profit on human misery.  Shareholders of  GEO Group stock expect the board of directors and executives to return handsome profits from imprisoning United States citizens (and increasingly illegal aliens).  The perversity in this arrangement, of course, is that in order to increase profits for shareholders, private prison companies, including the Corrections Corporation of America (the other prominent U.S. private prison company), seek to aggressively imprison more Americans by lobbying legislatures to increase sentencing laws, divine new laws/ways to imprison individuals, and even engage in drafting model legislation like SB 1070 (Arizona's "show me your papers" law) and three-strikes laws.  In "All Eyez on Me: America's War on Drugs and the Prison Industrial Complex," I describe the perverse incentives that motivate the private prison industry by examining the immorality attendant in leadership of private prison companies debating successful ways to increase profit by incarcerating more United States' citizens.

Private prison companies have flourished in recent years based upon the increasingly dubious claim that they provide prison services for less cost than do governmental agencies.  While numerous studies dispute this assertion, the bottom line economic transfer is that taxpayer funds are being funneled to private prison companies (and its executives and shareholders) without those companies providing any genuine public good or manufacture of product.  Indeed, recent reports indicate that private prison companies engage in gross human rights and constitutional violations, more egregious than government run prisons.

And now, FAU has signed an agreement to partner with The GEO Group allowing GEO to prominently appear on the facade of its' football stadium and increase its corporate branding.  FAU's President appears to have not engaged in any due diligence when signing the naming right, relying singularly upon the fact that the GEO Group Chair is a proud alumnus of FAU.  This is particularly egregious in Florida, where private prisons have attempted to seize on opportunities to stealthily motivate state legislators to sanction massive expansion of the private prison industry.  Students recently orchestrated a "sit-in" where President Saunders was forced to speak to the group, though she claims the naming agreement is a "done deal."  Whether students protests will lead to a repudiation of the agreement remains to be seen.  Sans repudiation, Florida Atlantic University may go down as one of the first American Universities to openly celebrate the incredibly perverse and immoral private prison industry and lobby.

(hat tip to Dave Zirin at The Nation)
cross posted on the Sports Law Blog

1 comment:

  1. dré,

    Thanks for continuing to follow the growth of private prisons. Coincidentally, I wrote about private prisons, including Florida Atlantic's stadium, yesterday over at As I point out there, private prisons have developed a thriving lobbying arm while providing--at least according to a committee of the Ohio legislature--shoddy services. Here's the direct link:

    César |