The GEO Redemption

Facilities can be named after donut companies, mattress stores and dental offices, but when it comes to incarceration, that’s where the line is drawn.

GEO Group, specializing in the privatization of U.S. prisons, has withdrawn a $6 million contribution to Florida Atlantic University, and its stadium will have to be named something other than GEO Group Stadium. The company cited discomfort at being drawn into a debate about civil rights and privatization, according to the New York Times.

“What was originally intended as a gesture of GEO’s good will to financially assist the university’s athletic scholarship program has surprisingly evolved into an ongoing distraction to both of our organizations,” GEO Group Chairman George Zoley said. Zoley is a graduate of the university.

Dozens of groups backed a letter sent to the university’s president, claiming GEO has a long history of abuses at its facilities, deaths of dozens of people in its custody and citations from state and federal regulators, according to the Times.

There were also protests and petition drives by a student group that resisted the university associating with a company that made money by incarceration.

“I would hope this sets a far-reaching precedent that the truth and human rights are worth more than millions of dollars, always,” a member of the coalition said.

The president of the university told the Times the university was not prepared to for the national dialog. She noted GEO Group headquarters were a block from campus and the company often hires Florida Atlantic graduates.

As for the stadium, if a new naming rights partner is not located, it may have to resort to a generic title such as Florida Atlantic University Stadium.