Last fall, Chief Executive Officer George Zoley of the publicly traded private prison corporation GEO Group told shareholders he was “very pleased” with recent financial results after the company “experienced improved occupancy rates across a number of our ICE [immigration detention] facilities” — and now we know why.
In an early March filing to those shareholders, GEO Group divulged that total compensation last year for its top corporate executives nearly doubled, jumping from $10.9 million to $20.3 million. Zoley really made out. Stock awards, which the corporation gives out when it profits more than it expected, boosted his compensation from $5.1 million to $9.6 million.
The GEO Group CEO better have thanked President Donald Trump for the big payday.
Trump deported less people last year than the Obama administration did in 2016, but he arrested 30 percent more suspected undocumented immigrants. That means more people were held in immigration detention centers, which are primarily run by GEO Group and its main rival, CoreCivic (formerly CCA). GEO Group also manages the electronic monitoring used on some undocumented immigrants through its subsidiary BI Inc.
Zoley also better cross his fingers that the courts don’t catch up with GEO Group’s alleged practice of coercing suspected undocumented immigrants into “volunteering” in their detention centers. Former detainees across the country are suing the corporation for threatening solitary confinement when they refused to cook, clean, or perform other duties for $1 or even less a day. This helps make Zoley richer by saving GEO Group untold amounts of money on labor costs.
Remember: all of that executive compensation is public money, i.e., our money. Instead of being invested in things our communities need, like public education, mass transit, and healthcare, it was spent on calming trumped up fears about immigrant “rapists” and “criminals” and ended up in the pockets of the likes of George Zoley.
It’s outrageous that Zoley can use that money to pay off the mortgage on his nine-bedroom Boca Raton mansion. But some of it will surely go to helping perpetuate the sort of society that keeps private prison corporations in business.
The CEO has been a longtime campaign funder of Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has flip flopped on immigration issues but once called for an Arizona-style racial profiling law empowering the state’s police to ask for proof of citizenship based on suspicion alone. Scott also supports “tough on crime” policies like mandatory minimums that have helped swell populations in America’s jails and prisons.
And according to the new group UnKoch My Campus, GEO Group along with the Koch brothers is funding the research of a Florida Atlantic University professor with ties to white nationalist organizations. Florida Atlantic is located in Boca Raton, and GEO Group once tried to buy the naming rights to the school’s football stadium.
If it wasn’t already obvious — Trump’s dog whistles and crackdowns are music to the ears of those in the business of caging human beings.