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Article

5 Dec 2019

Author:
Madison Pauly, Mother Jones

A Judge Says Thousands of Detainees May Sue a Prison Company for Using Them as a “Captive Labor Force”

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Early one morning, Abdiaziz Karim was sleeping in his new dorm in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center when an officer woke him up. The guard pointed out graffiti on the wall and a light fixture smeared with toothpaste, and demanded that Karim, a Somali waiting for an asylum hearing, clean them. When Karim protested, the guard got angry...

Since 2014, a series of lawsuits filed in federal courts from Washington to Georgia have collected similar allegations of coercive labor practices inside for-profit immigration detention centers run by GEO and its main competitor, CoreCivic. The lawsuits claim that the companies that operate the detention centers are violating minimum wage, unjust enrichment, and antislavery laws by coercing detainees to work for free, or, in some cases, $1 per day, by threatening them with punishment and depriving them of basic necessities...

Karim, who spent two years in Adelanto before losing his asylum case and being deported to Somalia in August, is one of a group of former detainees who have brought a class-action lawsuit against GEO Group for allegedly profiting off “a readily available, captive labor force.” Last Tuesday, a federal judge in California allowed the lawsuit to proceed as a national class action, with Karim and his three co-plaintiffs representing the tens of thousands of detainees who have been locked up in GEO facilities since 2007...

The detainees argue that GEO is violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits forced labor. In court documents, GEO’s lawyers have claimed that no detainee was ever placed in solitary confinement for failing to work, and that the company’s sanitation policies do not violate the requirements of their contracts. The company may appeal the judge’s decision to authorize the lawsuit as a class action.

 

[See GEO Group's Response here] 

 

 

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