USA: GEO Group faces lawsuit over alleged use of forced labour at immigrant detention facility

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18 August 2017

USA: Rights groups file briefs to support plaintiffs in lawsuit against GEO Group over alleged unpaid labour at for-profit prison

Author: Erin Mulvaney, National Law Journal (USA)

"Advocacy Groups Side With Plaintiffs Alleging Unpaid Labor At For-Profit Prison", 17 Aug 2017

Advocacy groups have weighed in on a lawsuit against the nation's second-largest for-profit prison provider, arguing in recently filed "friend-of-the-court briefs" that GEO Group Inc.'s alleged practices of relying on cheap and unpaid labor by detained immigrants underscores abuses to this vulnerable community...

Over the last week, a slew of advocacy organizations, including The Southern Poverty Law Center, Public Citizen and a group of national immigrant rights groups, filed briefs that point to the broader implications of the case — noting issues around human trafficking and the for-profit prison industry. They also discussed the importance of class actions for vulnerable immigrant groups...

The lawsuit claims that GEO amassed enormous profits through "forced labor" provided to the Aurora prison through a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The suit takes aim at the company's "sanitation policy" that required ICE detainees to work as janitors without pay under the threat of solitary confinement. It also targets a "voluntary work program" that allegedly paid detainees only $1 a day. Two classes were certified by the Denver federal court that could include between 40,000 to 60,000 laborers that were detained in Aurora over the last 10 years...

In a statement, GEO responded that the volunteer work program at all of its 143 immigration facilities, as well as the minimum wage rates and standards, are set by the government...

"GEO has consistently, strongly refuted the allegations made in this lawsuit, and we intend to continue to vigorously defend our company against these claims," the company said in the statement...

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1 March 2017

USA: Lawsuit against GEO Group over forced labour in immigrant detention facility accepted as class action

Author: Betsy Woodruff, Daily Beast (USA)

"Detainees Sue Private Prison for ‘Forced Labor'", 28 Feb 2017

The nation’s second largest private prison company is facing some serious legal challenges......[A] federal judge ruled that current and former detainees held at an immigrant detention center in Colorado can join a class-action lawsuit against GEO Group, a private prison company.  The plaintiffs allege that the GEO Group forced detainees to work for extremely low wages or for no wages at all, and in some cases threatened detainees with solitary confinement as punishment if they refused to work...[O]ne of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, [said]...“This is the first time that a private prison company has ever been accused of forced labor, and this is the first time that a judge has ever found that the claims can go forward under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the bans in federal law on forced labor.”  GEO Group rejects the allegations.  “We have consistently, strongly refuted these allegations...” a spokesman for the company, told The Daily Beast...“GEO’s Aurora facility is being run on the backs of detainees, with GEO’s profits flowing from abusing this cheap detainee labor.”...The lawsuit could potentially... make immigrant detention more expensive or less profitable...

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9 July 2015

Lawsuit: Immigrants got $1 a day for work at private prison

Author: Associated Press

Immigrants who were detained at a suburban Denver facility while they awaited deportation proceedings are suing the private company that held them, alleging they were paid $1 a day to do janitorial work, sometimes under threat of solitary confinement…On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane declined a request from…GEO Group Inc. to dismiss the claims against it…The company has denied wrongdoing and said in court documents the work is voluntary and it is abiding by federal guidelines in paying $1 a day…Attorneys for the immigrants say…the judge's ruling clears the way to gather more information from GEO through discovery proceedings about how many detainees were put to work…GEO responded in a statement that its facilities “provide high-quality services in safe, secure and humane residential environments, and our company strongly refutes allegations to the contrary.”

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6 July 2015

Menocal, et al. v. The Geo Group, Inc. - Memorandum Opinion and Order

Author: US District Court for the District of Colorado

[Full text of court's decision allowing plaintiffs' claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act to move forward.  Plaintiffs' original complaint is here.]

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