Fact Sheet: Human Trafficking & Forced Labor in For-Profit Detention Facilities

Author: Alexandra F. Levy, The Human Trafficking Legal Center, Published on: 15 June 2018

"Fact Sheet: Human Trafficking & Forced Labor in For-Profit Detention Facilities. Strategic Litigation in U.S. Federal Courts", 2018

...In the past four years, civil attorneys have filed cutting-edge federal trafficking cases against individuals and entities associated with the U.S. penal system. At least 17 civil cases include allegations that private prison corporations, municipalities, and detention facilities (among others) have violated federal anti-trafficking, involuntary servitude, and forced labor laws.  Six of these cases involve claims of abuse committed by private corporations against civil immigration detainees. An additional six cases charge that municipalities and other officials conspired to create a system of debt servitude...This factsheet analyzes this litigation, drawing lessons from both ongoing and resolved cases...Plaintiffs subjected to involuntary servitude or forced labor as a consequence of criminal convictions face significant barriers to successful litigation under the TVPRA [Trafficking Victims Protection Act]. However, prisons and other post-conviction facilities do not have carte-blanche to abuse inmates and exploit their labor.  Several ongoing cases...are testing the extent to which the TVPRA can serve as a bulwark against abuse in all detention facilities...Civil lawsuits brought by indigent people detained in debtors’ prisons and forced to work off their debts have already resulted in widespread reforms.  Claims filed by civil immigration detainees have challenged corporations for their otherwise largely-unchecked treatment of detainees.  And “diversion programs” alleged to fraudulently obtain forced labor are now before the courts...

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