Commentary: "Voluntary Work Programs" at US immigrant detention centres run by private prison cos. amount to forced labour

Author: Victoria Law, In These Times (USA), Published on: 5 June 2018

"Investigation: Corporations Are Profiting From Immigrant Detainees’ Labor. Some Say It’s Slavery.", 29 May 2018

...Within the past year, four lawsuits have been filed by seven people who say they were victims of trafficking at the hands of the nation’s two largest private detention center operators: CoreCivic and GEO Group.  The suits charge that...the corporations violated the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act by threatening solitary confinement or withholding basic necessities...if detainees refused to work.  According to the lawsuits, the companies did so to reduce labor costs and maximize profits.  The four new suits join one already wending its way through the court system.  Filed in 2014 against GEO Group, the suit was certified as a class action this February.  Approximately 62,000 people currently or previously detained in a GEO Group facility in Colorado might have been affected.  Each of these five lawsuits concerns the Voluntary Work Program, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that puts detainees to work for $1 a day.  “The name ‘Voluntary Work Program’ is misleading since...it actually means forced labor,” says Liz Martinez, director of advocacy and strategic communications at Freedom for Immigrants...Though only privately run detention centers have been named in the lawsuits, advocates don’t rule out the existence of forced labor in government-run facilities...[L]awsuits have targeted privately run detention centers because of the number of reported violations, as well as the outrage surrounding the fact that corporations and shareholders are profiting from this labor...What is new...is the legal strategy of charging corporations with labor trafficking...[A]ccording to every one of these five lawsuits—those who refuse to work, attempt to take a day off or complain about hazardous work conditions are severely punished...

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Related companies: CoreCivic GEO Group