Prison operator's name on university football stadium

The CEO of GEO Group, a prison operator, gave his alma mater, Florida Atlantic University, a $6 million gift in return for the naming rights to the stadium.

Selling a stadium's naming rights is nothing new. But what about selling the rights to a for-profit prison operator?

Florida Atlantic University Stadium has a new name — GEO Group FAU Football Stadium, the university's newspaper reported. GEO Group, according to its website, is "the world's leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services." It boasts of having 101 facilities, 73,000 beds and, now, a football stadium.

The University Press said the 12-year sponsorship deal is worth $6 million to FAU.

"We are incredibly grateful for this wonderful gift," university President Mary Jane Saunders said in a press release.

But not everyone is pleased.

GEO's chairman, George Zoley, is a graduate of FAU, but GEO Group has not always garnered positive press.

The New York Times reported that GEO Group's income comes primarily from state and federal prisons and detention centers for illegal immigrants. The company has seen backlash from civil liberty groups and immigrant rights organizations. The Times reported that it also lost several high-profile legal cases after it was cited by state and federal regulators.

The Times quoted Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a social justice group, who said, "It's startling to see a stadium will be named after (GEO Group). … This is a company whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents that really draw into question their ability to successfully manage a prison facility."

According to the Palm Beach Post, in 2011, GEO paid $6.5 million to the family of a man strangled by his cellmate.

The Post reported that in 2009, an appeals court in Texas upheld a $42.5 million verdict against GEO after a prisoner in one of its facilities was beaten to death days before his release.

The university says the money from the naming rights deal will help FAU and the community it serves through supporting scholarships, the stadium itself and academics, the press release said.

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