CEO of America’s largest private prison corporation George Zoley and his wife, Donna, at a hospital benefit in Boca Raton, Florida.
THE HEADLINE IS A QUOTE from the Center for Media & Democracy’s (CMD) PR Watch (November 2013) in a story about George C. Zoley, the CEO of GEO Group, a public for-profit corporation that runs dozens of state and federal prisons around the U.S.
A few months after this story appeared, a lawsuit was filed against GEO. This week, that lawsuit reached class-action status. Keep reading.
You can read the official GEO bio of Zoley here, on GEO’s website that proclaims it is a “global leader in evidence-based rehabilitation.”
The facts, as reported in 2013:
GEO Group’s revenue in 2012 exceeded $1.4 billion and CMD estimates that 86% of this money came out of the pockets of taxpayers. CMD’s investigation of GEO Group unearthed how the company’s cost-cutting strategies lead to a vicious cycle where lower wages and benefits for workers, high employee turnover, insufficient training, and under-staffing results in poor oversight and mistreatment of detained persons, increased violence, and riots.
But according to SEC filings, top officials at the firm are doing just fine. From 2008-2012 George C. Zoley raked in $22 million in compensation.
Updated for 2015, he maintained that level of compensation, taking in just under $4.9 million.
Why do we care?
*GEO, the largest for-profit prison company in the U.S., is guaranteed a certain number of beds. Why do we have the largest percentage of incarcerated people of any country in the world? Because in the U.S., people are the product. Again, from CMD, emphases ours:.:
“Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, GEO Group has profited from federal and state policies that have led to a dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States — an increase of more than 500 percent over the past three decades. In recent years, with crime rates dropping and sentencing reform spreading, GEO Group has found a new way to keep its profits high: many of its contracts contain bed guarantees or “lock up quotas” that require that a state keep prisons full, and put taxpayers on the hook for empty beds.
Alas for corporate growth, there are only so many black men left to lock up. But, wait: there are allegedly 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal permission! And so, we have the myth of rapists and murderers crossing the borders to take our jobs and our money and our lives. What a break for George and Donna.
Prison labor, which is state-sanctioned slavery ($1/day), does take jobs away from the unskilled labor pool. But, it’s hard to be a convicted felon and get much public sympathy for being a slave.
Now, however, with mass deportation (which may be preceded by various lengths of time in prison), there is a new labor pool: immigrants. And maybe the public is less inclined to tolerated state-sanctioned slavery when the crimes of the slaves are, for example, coming across the border without papers to mow lawns.
A lawsuit against GEO Group reached class-action status this week.
Here is the story by Christine Phillips in today’s Washington Post:
Thousands of ICE detainees claim they were forced into labor, a violation of anti-slavery laws
Tens of thousands of immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were forced to work for $1 day, or for nothing at all — a violation of federal anti-slavery laws — a lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed in 2014 against [GEO GROUP] one of the largest private prison companies in the country, reached class-action status this week after a federal judge’s ruling. That means the case could involve as many as 60,000 immigrants who have been detained.
It’s the first time a class-action lawsuit accusing a private U.S. prison company of forced labor has been allowed to move forward.
“That’s obviously a big deal; it’s recognizing the possibility that a government contractor could be engaging in forced labor,” said Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice, a Colorado-based nonprofit group that represents low-wage workers, including undocumented immigrants. “Certification of the class is perhaps the only mechanism by which these vulnerable individuals who were dispersed across the country and across the world would ever be able to vindicate their rights.”