Photo: AP

ICE’s biggest contractor, the private prison company GEO Group, has threatened a group of activists in Florida with legal action for allegedly publishing false information and staging protests outside the company’s facilities.

GEO sent a cease and desist letter to the activist group Dream Defenders on Friday. “It is clear that Dream Defenders published knowingly false statements regarding GEO in an attempt to incite others to engage in potentially violent and harmful behavior directed at GEO facilities,” reads the letter, the Miami New Times reports.

The group responded this morning with a point-by-point dismissal of the letter, including evidence of their claims that GEO cages children and overwhelmingly imprisons black, Latino, and poor white people.

The letter read, in part:

You hold children behind bars, fences, and/or in locked facilities. GEO’s own website details facilities across the country used to detain children for federal and state governments. Your own promotional materials refer to ‘standard GTI security equipment such as steel cages’ in your transportation fleet. Just this week, conditions in your Karnes County, TX facility have forced hundreds of children and fathers into a strike to protest what they describe as ‘being treated like animals.’ [...]

GEO’s CEO has highlighted the business opportunities that come with the Trump administration’s immigration policies in calls with analysts. GEO not only maintains the physical walls separating inmates and detained immigrants from their families, but has even profited off of the few moments of connection detainees have over the phone. [...]

[J]ust because GEO is not directly responsible for sentencing or deciding which families to incarcerate, detain or deport does not absolve the company of participating in a racist system of mass incarceration that has its roots in slavery and Jim Crow laws.

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Dream Defenders has protested GEO Group and their influence for years. They were part of the successful effort that stopped Florida Democrats from taking campaign donations from the company. Now that there is a nationwide push against ICE and those who benefit from their policies, it’s not surprising that GEO Group is worried about where this could go.

GEO Group is no stranger to controversy. The list of their alleged wrongdoings in private prisons is long, and includes paying $42.5 million for negligence and destruction of evidence to the family of a man killed in their prison by fellow inmates. They’ve been the subject of multiple class action lawsuits from detainees, including children, for abhorrent conditions in their prisons. Last year, 60,000 immigrant detainees sued the company for forcing them to work for less than a dollar a day, or nothing, violating anti-slavery laws.

Democratic Senators who took money from private prisons this year include Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and Montana Senator Jon Tester. Just putting it out there.