Geo awarded two federal prison contract renewals worth $664 million

Boca Raton-based prison operator Geo said Friday it has been awarded renewals on two more federal prison contracts — further illustration of Geo’s reversal of fate under the Trump Administration.

The 10-year contracts from the Bureau of Prisons for prisons in Big Spring, Texas, are worth $664 million. The two prisons, which have more than 3,500 beds, house illegal immigrants with criminal records.

Previously, The Geo Group was awarded a two-year renewal of its contract at a Georgia federal prison.

“We’re pleased to have been able to strengthen our long-standing partnership with the [Bureau of Prisons] with these important contract awards,” said Geo chairman and CEO George Zoley.

Geo is the largest provider of detention services for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and U.S. Marshals Service.

The renewals under the Trump Administration are an about-face from the U.S. Justice Department’s 2016 decision to end prison-management contracts with private companies, citing Geo and two other prison operators as “inefficient” and “unsafe.”

At the time, Zoley called the decision an “overreaction” and said “in time, this will correct itself.”

Then overseen by the Obama Administration, the Justice Department pointed to a report that cited safety and security concerns at 14 prisons operated by three private prison companies.

The Inspector General’s Office analyzed data from fiscal years 2011-2014 for 14 private-contract prisons and 14 prisons managed by the Bureau of Prisons. The three private contractors were The Geo Group, Corrections Corp. of America, and Management and Training Corp., which it said manage 12 percent of the nation’s prison population.

The report said disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in “extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer.”

Geo manages two of three prisons — Rivers in Winston, N.C., and D. Ray James in Folkston, Ga. — that the report documented having the most incidents per capita. But in September, Geo received a two-year contract renewal for D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Folkston, Ga.

In March, the Trump Administration rescinded the order that would have put an end to privately run prisons.

In its first quarter, Geo saw profits rise by 27 percent. Zoley said in a conference call that he expects Geo to benefit from the $1 billion in the federal budget resolution earmarked for detention of illegal immigrants.

Geo already is building a two-story ICE processing center with 1,000 beds and ICE offices near Houston at a cost of $117 million.

mpounds@sunsentinel.com or 561-243-6650, twitter: @marciabiz

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