GEO Group Nixes Controversial FAU Naming-Rights Deal Amid Ongoing Protests
Boca Raton-based prison company GEO Group yesterday "withdrew" from its planned $6M naming-rights deal with Florida Atlantic Univ. "just hours after the latest student protest," according to Michael Vasquez of the MIAMI HERALD. Controversy had “dogged the gift from the beginning, as GEO Group’s status as the second-largest private prison operator in the country prompted jokes nicknaming the stadium Owlcatraz, after FAU’s mascot.” More serious criticism “came from human-rights organizations on the company’s reputation for housing prisoners in unhealthy, abusive squalor.” But FAU BOT Chair Anthony Barbar on Friday said that he had “seen no evidence of wrongdoing by the firm.” A coalition of more than 60 civil rights, immigrant, student and faith organizations yesterday morning “delivered an opposition letter to FAU President Mary Jane Saunders and the university’s board of trustees.” GEO Group Chair & CEO George Zoley in a statement said the naming-rights agreement “surprisingly evolved into an ongoing distraction to both of our organizations” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/2). In West Palm Beach, John Lantigua reports GEO Group released a letter from Zoley to Barbar “pledging $500,000 for academic scholarships this year in lieu of" the naming-rights agreement (PALM BEACH POST, 4/2).