On Monday Texas House member Cecil Bell Jr. tweeted from a lunch with GEO Group representatives:
Representative Bell, lunching with the GEO Group really isn’t a great look. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, where you have decision-making power over how state funds are allocated, this for-profit private prison corporation is going to take an interest in you because they want you to support their stability and expansion in your region and across the state of Texas. We’re sure you’re aware that in Montgomery County, which intersects your district, GEO has been managing operations at the Joe Corley Detention Center since 2008 and the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility (MCMHTF) since March 2011. Last spring GEO finalized the purchase of the Joe Corley Detention Center, is looking to purchase MCMHTF, and planning on building a second federal prison in Conroe. Evidently, local law-makers in Montgomery County are anticipating that GEO is turning their county into a hub for their business -- the business of profiteering from incarceration, mind you. As a former Deacon and a person of faith, we know you understand the moral conflict in caging human beings for profit.
The thing is, GEO’s track record with these two facilities hasn’t been great. The contract with GEO and the construction of the Joe Corley Detention Center were done on speculation of a rate of occupancy that has not panned out, and the financial burden was left to the county. Furthermore, scandals, deaths, and lawsuits have brought much negative attention to the state of Texas, Montgomery County, and GEO. This July 2012 article in the Austin American Statesman provides a comprehensive and damning overview of GEO’s troubles at MCMHTF and other Texas facilities, for your reference.
Others’ alignments with GEO haven’t gone so well, either. In May this year, Florida Atlantic University’s president Mary Jane Saunders had to resign because of the negative attention she received for her heavy involvement in brokering a deal with GEO to name FAU’s football stadium after the private prison company! Students started calling the stadium “Owlcatraz” and even Stephen Colbert got wind of it. It was pretty embarrassing.
Representative Bell, GEO Group is a fair-weather friend at best. They’re a giant corporation trying to protect their bottom line and they see you just like they see prisoners, as dollar signs. Just remember, there’s a price to pay for the profit and support they share with you, and you and your constitutents may end up with a bigger debt than you bargained for.