Last week, the announcement that GEO Group had bought the naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s new football stadium set off a firestorm. The for-profit private prison corporation’s $6 million donation to the school is shocking, but its ties to FAU go back much further; CEO George Foley isn’t just an alum, he’s also a former chair of the FAU Board of Trustees and member of the Foundation board of directors. He even served chair of the Presidential Search Committee that hired Mary Jo Saunders, who has been quoted calling GEO Group “a wonderful company” and that she is “very proud to partner with them.”
This incidence of crossover between the for-profit private prison industry and schools is not unique – both GEO Group and CCA have close ties to universities. In this Humpday Post we'll look into a few other universities elevating and validating the private prison industry.
Belmont University, in Nashville, TN, boasts of a “strong bond” and “long-standing relationship” with CCA. Three CCA bigwigs, including president and CEO Damon Hininger, are graduates of its business school; both Hininger and John Ferguson (CCA’s chairman of the board) are currently on the university’s board of trustees.[I'd add additional language to point to what a powerful position this is] In 2010, Hininger received the Distinguished Graduate Award from the Massey School of Business. This December, Hininger and an "enthusiatic" crowd of CCA employees hosted a Power Lunch for business students, touting the company as a good career choice post-graduation.
Florida-based Nova Southeastern University, where George Zoley received his Doctorate Degree in Public Administration, offers up to 25% tuition reduction toward a degree for GEO Group employees. NSU is the only not-for-profit university that offers discounts to GEO Group workers; University of Phoenix, Ashford University, Herzing University, and Chamberlain School of Nursing also offer incentives.
Dr. Patrick Jablonski, CCA senior director of Quality Assurance Research and Analysis and member of the CCA Research Institute Advisory Council, is also performing research as a professor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. He brings to both positions expertise and connections from his former role as a Research Statistician for the Orange County, Florida Corrections Department.
Fortunately, college students have been taking initiative to combat the intrusion of private prison corporations onto their campuses. Students at FAU have launched protests and, on Friday, will be speaking with President Saunders. We hope these efforts will repeat the successes of the Not With Our Money campaigns in the early 2000s, when student protesters spoke out against food service provider Sodexho Marriot, whose parent company held major interests in CCA.
Don't forget to sign the Beyond Bars/Grassroots Leadership petition to stop GEO Group from naming a stadium.