The private prison industry is doing well under President Donald Trump – the self-proclaimed ‘law and order’ president – and thanks to his hardline immigration policies, profits for the industry only stand to climb.
But immigrants are the losers in this scenario not only for their loss of freedom but for the reported exploitation of their labor.
A Washington Post op-ed reveals that the nation’s two largest private prison companies – GEO Group and Core Civic – each face lawsuits alleging forced labor within their detention facilities; and even in a detention center, forced labor is a crime in the U.S.
Five lawsuits have been filed since Trump took over the Oval Office:
> Two San Diego residents, Sylvester Owino and Jonathan Gomez, brought one such suit. Owino and Gomez allege that at various times between 2005 and 2015, they were detained for immigration violations at a CoreCivic-run facility called the Otay Mesa Detention Center. They claim that during their respective detentions, CoreCivic forced them and other detainees to scrub bathrooms, wash windows and clean other parts of the facility, all under threat of physical restraint and solitary confinement. Now, they are seeking to recover what they say they are owed — and trying to prohibit CoreCivic from profiting from such practices in the future.
> Additional suits filed against CoreCivic in California, Texas and Georgia make similar allegations, as do suits filed against GEO Group in California and Colorado. GEO Group has denied the allegations, arguing in a court filing that “the household duties expected of detainees do not involve GEO in ‘trafficking’ persons for forced labor.” And while a spokesman for CoreCivic said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation, the company also maintains that its programs are “completely voluntary” and follow federal standards.
Though CoreCivic attempted to argue that human trafficking laws are not applicable to private detention centers, a Republican-appointed federal judge in California dismissed the argument.
> Similarly, a federal court of appeals in Colorado recently ruled that a human trafficking case against GEO Group can proceed as a class action. The class includes as many as 60,000 current and former detainees who allege that they were held in forced labor, prompting GEO Group to respond in an appeal that the suit “poses a potentially catastrophic risk to GEO’s ability to honor its contracts with the federal government.”
In the end, should the allegations of forced labor prove true, the private prison industry would revealed as one of the largest beneficiaries of undocumented labor in the U.S.
> Many of the immigrants detained at GEO Group and CoreCivic facilities would not legally be permitted to work outside the detention centers’ fences. These lawsuits make a startling claim: Private detention corporations, touted as “job-creators,” are using detainee labor to avoid creating jobs for U.S. citizens.