GEO Group | KUNC

GEO Group

The GEO Group Australia

Support for our series Private Prisons: Locking Down The Facts came from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting and education around the globe.

Around when I was setting up a trip to Australia to report on a private prison there, things were not looking good for the industry in my home state of Colorado. Politicians were talking about phasing them out entirely. And the GEO Group, a private prison company, announced it would close its one Colorado prison, amid concerns about staff shortages and lack of services for inmates. The state’s head of corrections was talking about the need to move away from prisons that are “stark and idle places without purpose [or] hope.”

But over on the other side of the world, there was Ravenhall, a prison run by the Australian subsidiary of that very same company, GEO. And everything about it flew in the face of the narrative I was hearing. 

The GEO Group Australia

Support for our series Private Prisons: Locking Down The Facts came from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting and education around the globe.

When architect Kavan Applegate was designing Ravenhall, he made sure to include things like native plants, a playground, meeting rooms with nooks to display local artifacts — even an outdoor fire pit where people could gather on special occasions. The goal, he says, was to help people “feel positive” and “embrace the opportunity for change.” 

But Ravenhall is not a yoga retreat. It’s a prison — Australia’s largest, in fact. And it’s run by the GEO Group, a private prison company based in the U.S.

In his latest budget proposal, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis requested $7.2 million to begin transitioning the state away from private prisons. A big part of that plan was to close the Cheyenne Mountain Re-entry Center in Colorado Springs. It’s a medium security facility run by the GEO group, one of the largest prison companies in the country. 

Denver city councilors have refused to renew more than $10 million in contracts with two of the nation's largest private corrections companies that operate halfway houses in the city partly due to their track record running immigration detention facilities, a sudden move which puts current inmates and people leaving prison in limbo.

Last October, Osny Kidd was arrested outside his Los Angeles apartment and taken to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Adelanto, Calif.

"I was in handcuffs from feet to waist to arms. I arrived there in chains," Kidd says. Over 76 days, he says, he was strip searched, subject to filthy conditions, denied medications, and briefly placed in solitary confinement.

Lights for Liberty

People are protesting the U.S.’s treatment of immigrants, with vigils planned across the country for the night of Friday, July 12. Collectively, the national event is called “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.”