Despite being in the works for months, the day after the elections the citizens of Gary found out their Mayor of Gary and one council member supported GEO Corporation in their building and operating a ForProfit Detention Center in Gary. GEO operated as it always does- behind the scenes, financial contributions to local politicians, and purchasing land when trying to fast-track re-zoning. Oh, and dangling the promise of jobs to a distressed urban area.
GEO has played this scenario over and over. In Texas, Colorado, IL, and in the past two years in Lake County IN. Hobart successfully stopped their plans so GEO snaked over to Gary, IN. Purchased land near the airport, received support and then– they met the good people of Gary.
Yes, good people of Gary, We are well aware of the jokes, the punchline our city has become. Mostly from folks who never have been to Gary. Or ones stuck in the hard, horrible times of the past. But we who still live and work in Gary and surrounding Region know Gary IS on the move upward and beginning a resurgence in the Arts, historical education, and revitalization of her diverse culture. We have hope. Its hard, but we are moving .
Which is why white collar , blue collar and clergy collar folks- women and men joined together to rise up against the proposed ForProfit Detention Center, No doubt the detention center would target people of color and hispanics in the Region. Despite what media may portray, it was a unified coalition that made their voices heard when given less than a weeks notice of the hearing with GEO before Gary’s City Council . MIGHT 219 -Mass Incarceration and GEO Halt team (219 is area code of the Region) , Black Lives Matter NWI, Clergy of numerous denominations: Lutheran, Unitarian, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ., and Interfaith Coalition members. Black Lives Matter NWI, citizens from Hobart and Crete IL, and many more individuals came together. No GEO in Gary.
Of course all these organizations and individuals want jobs for the area! But we can see through the smokescreen. And our voices were heard. The day after the council meeting where the GEO project was tabled, Wilson withdrew her support. Her statement can be found here.
It’s not over. The city council can still approve the project. Next steps:
1. SIGN the online petition to stop this endeavor.
2.Attend the Tuesday Nov. 17th Gary City Council Meeting. 5Pm Prayer vigil, 6 PM meeting.
3. Attend the Gary Zoning Board Monday Nov. 23 at 1PM
4. Educate yourself on the facts- not the smokescreen:
There are two main reasons why such a facility would be detrimental to Gary. (and anywhere)
1.While the promise of jobs to a distressed region such as Gary is enticing. GEO cannot promise , in writing, 200-300 jobs. The jobs would be based on the inmate population. There is no contract in place with ICE or Department of Justice that guarantees the number of inmates GEO is proclaiming, Recently Texas and other states have pulled out of contracts with GEO as the city has become responsible for paying the remainder of the note on the prison. Property tax increases, utility increases, all have decimated many towns in Texas.
GEO already operates the New Castle facility in Indiana. They cite the number of jobs there as proof they fulfill promises. Except GEO merely took over the operations and maintained 90% of the workforce.
2. Aside from the empty promises of jobs and tax incentives, GEO has been successfully prosecuted for sexual harassment charges as we as human rights violations. Currently at least 3 GEO facilities have hunger strikes due to inhumane conditions, The EEOC as recent as September 2015 is again filing suit against GEO
The citizens of Gary will not condone such practices in our backyard. We will not house nor be complicit in treatment of human beings in this manner.
And if these atrocities are not enough, consider this. Detention Centers are exempt from Freedom of Information Acts. (See page 16 of the Citizens for Ethics report. Obtaining actual practices – staffing levels, training, etc. are difficult to ascertain. While they may say detainees are only held 10-14 days, the reality is there are indefinite holds ( months to years) then release with NO CHARGES being filed.
Finally, GEO has lobbyists and has donated heavily in Indiana. In the past 10 years, over $83,000 has been donated to various political candidates- mostly Governors Daniel and Pence. Over $9,000 was donated to Rep. Saunders, who coincidently represents the district where the New Castle facility was awarded a GEO contract.)
This is only a brief synopsis of why GEO is bad for Gary. It is equally detrimental elsewhere, as outlined in citizen journalist Northwest Indiana Gazette.
GEO will not stop. They still own land. They still contribute to politicians. They know the distressed cities in the area and in the US. But love has won this far. As a local activist says, it IS Gary’s time. The citizens of Gary come from immigrant stock, from displaced peoples, that proverbial melting pot. And we are called Region Rats for a reason- we stay till the end, we don’t give up, we scrap, and we remember.