Florida Atlantic U. Faces Questions Over Naming Stadium for Prison Company

Some students and immigrant-rights activists are angry about Florida Atlantic University’s announcement on Tuesday that it would rename its football stadium for a prison company in recognition of a $6-million gift from its charitable foundation. The gift came from the GEO Group, a company that owns or operates a global chain of prisons and detention centers, including one about 10 miles from the stadium. The pledge will be paid over 12 years. The university’s president, Mary Jane Saunders, said in a written statement that the gift represented the company’s “incredible generosity,” noting that its chief executive is a Florida Atlantic alumnus and a former chair of the institution’s Board of Trustees. The company’s critics have accused it of human-rights violations, and some said they don’t want the university to be associated with a company that is facing such allegations.

Besides the United States, GEO Group also has private prisons in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia, where in 2003 it lost a contract after evidence was found that children detained in its facilities suffered cruel treatments, The New York Times reported in 2011. The company, which controls thousands of beds in private prisons and is worth almost $3 billion, is now in the middle of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit about mistreatment of prisoners.

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