Geo Group Throws In Towel On Proposal For Its Third For-Profit Prison In Adelanto

ADELANTO—(January 28) Florida-based Geo Group Inc. has withdrawn its plans to construct that company’s third for-profit prison facility in Adelanto, a 1,050-bed facility in the city that was to be be constructed at the northeast corner of Holly and Koala roads.
Geo Group, Inc. is already the largest employer in the city of Adelanto, where it operates for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency a detention facility that is currently undergoing expansion to a 1,940 inmate capacity. Geo Group, which started as a corporate offshoot of the private prison facility Wackenhut Corporation, also operates the 700-inmate Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility on behalf of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
On January 15, Donovan Collier, an attorney representing Geo Group Inc. sent a letter to the city informing officials the company was withdrawing its longstanding plan to build the facility at the present time but was nevertheless reserving its  “right to resubmit this request in the future.”
Geo Group’s action appears to be base in at least some measure on the hostile reception given to the company’s founder and president, Greek-born George Zoley, who attended the Adelanto City Council meeting on November 19, at which the approval of Geo Group’s facility and another for-profit prison proposed by Doctor Crants and Buck Johns was on the agenda. Present at that meeting were scores of opponents of both prison projects, who attacked the plans to build more prisons in a 31,765 population city that already hosts four prisons or detention facilities as contrary to the residents’ best interests, while asserting that the trend of expanding incarceration of a large percentage of the state’s population as behind the times and socially retarded.
Zoley, who is listed among the 1,500 wealthiest individuals in the world, had been encouraged in undertaking the project because the city of Adelanto is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and city officials had represented to Geo Group’s corporate officers that the city would expedite the approval of the project. Zoley took it as a grave personal insult that he was heckled by members of the audience as he gave his presentation to the city council that evening. He was further taken aback by the council voting by a bare 3 to 2 margin to approve the project. Two weeks previously, the Adelanto Planning Commission on November 4 had voted 4-0 o deny a renewal of the company’s  conditional use permit and development agreement, expressing concerns with prisoners being released directly outside the facility.
At the November 19 meeting, Zoley had come face-to-face with banner carrying protestors   who derided detention facilities as little more than “cages” for human beings and said that the city has grown to be part of a “Prison Industrial Complex” as the proliferation of prisons in Adelanto is harming the city’s image and harming public safety. Rather than receiving him as an agent of improvement in the community, the protestors derided Zoley as a predator who was trying to profit from it.
In the face of this, Foley gamely attempted to make his appeal to the council while a cadre of current Geo employees dressed in khaki prison guard uniforms and company executives were present to support him. The presence of uniformed prison guards surrounding him in that context, however, created a spectacle that made it appear as if Zoley and the city council were under siege.  “We are trying to bring economic benefits to this city,” Zoley said, amid catcalls. “We bought your former empty facility for $28 million, and I think those proceeds have been used over the last several years to this community’s benefit.” Zoley called the proposal for a second facility to be owned and operated by his company “a continuation” of the previously established relationship between Geo and Adelanto.
While facility opponents released a statement of appreciation that Geo Group had retracted its application, the development appeared to have caught Adelanto City Manager Jim Hart flatfooted. Word of Collier’s letter did not reach the public until January 27, some twelve days after it was written and eleven days after the city had received it.  Hart has been seeking ways of shoring up the cash-strapped city, which in 2013, declared it was in a state of fiscal emergency. The city’s residents have refused to consent to impose on themselves a tax that city officials say is needed to stave off bankruptcy and Hart’s only other alternatives have been to seek out development projects that offer the prospect of fee or tax generation.

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