NEW UPDATE ON THE GEO 9 (February 13th, 2020)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL
The GEO9 activists who are facing new felony charges for a non-violent direct action against private prison corporation GEO Group in December 2019 are all out of jail. The activists have been bonded or bailed out by their community, and are working with their lawyer, Sabarish P. Neelakanta, who says that many of the allegations in the police report are “factually incorrect and legally flawed.” The December 3rd action interrupted operations at GEO Group Headquarters in Boca Raton. The demonstrators called for an end to private prison profiteering by highlighting that GEO Group’s profits are the direct result of the suffering of immigrants and prisoners who are incarcerated or detained in GEO-run facilities. GEO Group operates private, for-profit prisons, and holds contracts with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) for immigrant detention centers throughout the United States. GEO’s immigrant detention facilities, often called concentration camps, have been cited for withholding of medical treatment, rampant sexual abuse, and multiple deaths of adults, and children as young as two years old.
Although the activists were originally charged with misdemeanors only, Alexis Butler of Dania Beach was suddenly arrested Friday, February 7th, on new felony charges and was held over the weekend as the community tried repeatedly to post bond. Clerical errors delayed this process until late Monday evening. On Tuesday morning, six of the GEO9 activists were also arrested for these new felony charges when they appeared in court for the misdemeanor charges that originally followed this December 3rd protest. The community rallied outside the courthouse with signs and banners saying “GEO Is Guilty.” Unexplained delays and numerous clerical errors meant that jail support for the six non-violent GEO9 activists who were arrested Tuesday morning lasted throughout the night outside the Palm Beach County Main Detention Center in West Palm Beach, FL. However, between 4 and 5 AM Wednesday morning, all six GEO9 activists were released on bond, including Wendy King of Coral Springs; Mathi Paguth of Lake Worth; Nicholas Vazquez of Miami; Carlos Valnera Naranjo of Hollywood; and David Hitchcock of Dania Beach. A seventh activist turned themselves in Wednesday afternoon; Ellen Vessels was bailed out Wednesday night.
All of the activists who were arrested during this week report that they witnessed and/or experienced medical neglect, misinformation, denial of food and water, refusal of grievance forms, and other violations to their civil rights within the Palm Beach County Main Detention Center and Broward County Jail. Moreover, jail support organizers report that many people unconnected to the GEO9 who were released during the night had no way to contact relatives, secure rides, or access food, water, and shelter. The activists waiting outside the jail provided food, rides, phone calls, and other resources to those who needed them. According to organizers, the conditions within these county-run jails are sadly analogous to the conditions reported within facilities run by private prison companies. They say that this level of neglect and harm within the correctional system demonstrates the need to challenge and transform all jails and prisons, including government-run facilities.
NEW UPDATE ON GEO9 ARRESTEES (February 11th, 2020)
The community went out in solidarity to support our GEO9 comrades at the Geo is Guilty Rally and Court Support for their West Palm Beach court trial this morning. Six of the GEO9 have been re-arrested on felony charges but all are expected to be bonded out today. One comrade so far has been bonded out. The charges are expensive and we need everyone to continue spreading the word so that we can cover escalating legal fees. Thank you to everyone who has spread the link and donated!! 100% of the funds go directly to our comrades to get them out of jail and to support the fight for prison abolition. Here's hope to a future world without prisons! Solidarity to the GEO9!
URGENT UPDATE ON THE GEO ARRESTEES (February 7th, 2020)
One of the activists who participated in the December 3rd, 2019 lock-down at GEO Group HQ was unexpectedly arrested tonight and taken to Palm Beach County corrections. We suspect it was in relation to the aforementioned action and because we haven't seen the warrant, we are working to determine the cause of arrest. The person arrested is extremely upset that their public defender has been unresponsive in the weeks leading up to tonight's arrest and is seeking justice for this neglect. In the meantime, funds are being raised for upcoming and possibly escalating legal fees against the GEO9. The bond for our friend arrested tonight is set to $13,500.
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Our community is posting a fundraiser to support organizers who shut down the Boca Raton GEO Group Headquarters this week. All proceeds will go towards posting bail for the participants and in legal fees. More info about the action:
Activists Lock Down To Protest For-Profit Incarceration At GEO-Owned Prisons And ICE Facilities.
BOCA RATON, FL – Florida based for-profit prison company, GEO Group is again the center of controversy as human rights activists lock down outside their Boca Raton headquarters early Tuesday morning.
Activists from a myriad of organizational backgrounds came together to physically impede “business as usual” at GEO’s corporate office. Demonstrators locked down, risking their physical safety, to call attention to GEO’s exhaustive record of human rights abuses, stating, “We will not allow our government to separate innocent families. We will not allow private companies to profit off the suffering of children. We will not allow their workers to sit undisturbed in air-conditioned offices while people are deprived of their humanity, dying in crowded cages.” Activists have also taken to the airwaves: Radio station 87.9 FM, in Palm Beach County, FL,will be broadcasting information about GEO Group, and their ties to ICE, elevating the voices of GEO's victims.
GEO Group operates private, for-profit prisons, making upwards of forty-four thousand per incarcerated person, per year, and holds contracts with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) for immigrant detention centers throughout the United States. GEO’s immigrant detention facilities, often called Concentration Camps, have been cited for withholding of medical treatment, rampant sexual abuse, and multiple deaths of adults, and children as young as two years old.
Between 2014 and 2019, a series of lawsuits has been filed by former detainees in GEO Group immigrant detention centers alleging that GEO Group threatened them with solitary confinement if they did not participate in forced labor. Detainees were compensated at rates of less than one dollar per day. In March 2017, a class action lawsuit was filed against GEO for forcing detainees to work at its center in Aurora, Colorado, violating federal trafficking laws. In May 2019, a federal judge ruled against GEO Group, ordering the company to pay immigrant detainees an hourly minimum wage. In July 2019, the Daily Beast published communications between GEO Group and ICE where GEO Group executives requested that ICE help pay the litigation costs of the lawsuits, placing the financial burden on American taxpayers.
GEO Group has been met with constant opposition from Palm Beach County residents, beginning in 2013 when GEO attempted to by the naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s football stadium. Students and faculty from FAU held months of nationally recognized demonstrations, demanding that the university refuse any partnership with a company famous for a host of human rights violations. GEO Group backed out of the FAU deal, citing negative press and unwanted attention. But the unwanted attention would continue, as only months later a group of activists entered GEO headquarters, locking down, halting business, and keeping the company in the news.
In spite of GEO’s 1.5 million dollar lobbying budget, a constant stream of pointed activism lead one of GEO’s key investors, Chase Bank to divest from all private prison corporations in March of 2019. Activists at Tuesday’s demonstration outside of GEO headquarters have released a list of demands. While many of their demands echo the national sentiment to defund GEO, others demonstrate a unified commitment to restorative justice.
Follow as more information develops under the hashtag #shutdownGEO