Private immigration prison hit with lawsuit over forced labor

Two former prisoners at a California private immigration prison have filed a class-action lawsuit against the operator of the facility, claiming they were forced under the threat of additional punishment to do work around the prison for as little as $1 a day.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed on May 31, plaintiffs Sylvester Owino and Jonathan Gomez accused CoreCivic, one of the largest private prison companies in the country, of forcing them to do things like clean bathrooms and medical facilities and run the prison law library. They also claim that they were forced to perform clerical work for CoreCivic, which owns and operates the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, where the two men were held.

"In some instances, CoreCivic pays detainees $1 per day, and in other instances, detainees are not compensated with wages at all, for their labor and services," according to the lawsuit. It added that "CoreCivic reported $1.79 billion in total revenues" in 2016.

29 PHOTOS
Life inside California's largest immigration detention center
See Gallery
Life inside California's largest immigration detention center
ICE detainees are seen at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A meal is seen in a cell for incoming ICE detainees at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Detainees exercise in a recreation area at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Men play dominoes at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Detainees exercise in a recreation area at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Men share a pair of headphones to watch television in a dormitory at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Female detainees read about a hunger strike at the Tacoma immigration detention center as they sit in a dormitory at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A communal area is seen at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A communal area is seen at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A razor wire fence surrounds the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A girl waits with visitors in the lobby of the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman lies on a bed in a dormitory at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
ICE detainees walk into the dining area for lunch at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
ICE detainees make phone calls at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A world map is seen on the wall of the visiting area at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The high-risk detainee visiting area is seen at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
David A. Marin, Field Office Director, Enforcement and Removal Operations, stands at the entrance to the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
ICE detainee possessions are seen in the intake area at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Immigrants sit in a cell for incoming ICE detainees at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An immigrant takes food into a cell for incoming ICE detainees at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Handcuffs for employees to use are seen at the entrance of the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Salvadoran immigrant Roberto Galan, 33, poses for a photo at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ICE detainee rests his hands on the window of his cell in the segregation wing at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman lies on a bed in a dormitory at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The women's medical room is seen at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Possessions lie on a bed in a women's dormitory at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ICE detainee lies in his cell in the segregation wing at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Women stand in a dormitory at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "ICE NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

CoreCivic is the new name for Corrections Corporation of America, which has come under fire in recent years on a number of issues, including the treatment of its inmates and the company's alleged lobbying efforts to sway state and federal lawmakers in the awarding of contracts. In 2015, 51 percent of CoreCivic's — then CCA's — revenue came from federal contracts.

CoreCivic, a publicly owned company with stockholders and competitors, did not immediately respond to Vocativ's request for comment.

"What you have is a civil immigration detention system, being managed by for-profit companies, based on a criminal detention model with detainees being coerced and forced to work under threat of punishment, or in some instances for as little as $1 per day," Robert Teel, the attorney who filed to lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs, told Vocativ. "You can imagine what an unfair competitive advantage it is for a company to pay its employees $1 per day instead of minimum wage."

Inmates earning pennies for working in a prison during their sentence happens at just about every detention facility in the country. In many cases, it's how inmates fend off boredom and fill their commissary accounts. What makes an immigration facility different is that it isn't designated for people who have been convicted of a crime. The facilities are typically filled with undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation, or as their cases work their way through immigration courts. What also allegedly makes this case different is the plaintiffs' claim that if they didn't work, then they were subject to additional punishments, such as solitary confinement or a loss of other privileges.

"The immigration detention and removal system is, by law, a civil system," Teel said. "Those in immigration detention include asylum seekers, green card holders, and those awaiting immigration hearings. The persons within this system are not awaiting criminal trials or serving criminal sentences, and the system is not intended to serve a punitive purpose."

14 PHOTOS
Faces of Trump's immigration crackdown
See Gallery
Faces of Trump's immigration crackdown
Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, waits to be processed after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, has his fingerprints taken after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (R), 53, arrests Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, waits to be processed after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (R), 53, arrests Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team takes immigration fugitives into custody in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Handcuffs lie in a box at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations office in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (L), 53, arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (R), 53, and Field Office Director David Marin arrest an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field, 53, arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team member arrests an Iranian immigrant in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team search for an immigration fugitive in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The lawsuit against CoreCivic also alleges human trafficking.

"The total number of civil immigration detainees who were subjected to defendant's forced labor and human trafficking practices, and defendant's illegal dollar-a-day work practices is currently unknown, but these illegal practices appear endemic to the CoreCivic operations on a California-wide, and indeed a nationwide, scale," the complaint states. "However, CoreCivic can provide the information regarding how many civil immigration detainees were subjected to these illegal practices through its solitary confinement and detention logs and also through its business records."

Owino is a Kenyan immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1998 on a legal student visa, according to a 2015 profile published by ThinkProgress after he was released from custody following nearly 10 years in immigrant detention facilities. In 2003, he was arrested for robbery and served 26 months in a California state prison. In 2005, he was transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement where he spent the next decade going through deportation proceedings, according to the complaint.

While in ICE custody at a CoreCivic facility, Owino, who was released in March 2015, claims he "provide[d] labor and services in an unsafe working environment cleaning and maintaining CoreCivic's on-site medical facility without personal protective equipment."

In 2016, the Obama administration announced its plan to end contracts with private, for-profit prisons like those operated by CoreCivic. Justice Department officials found that "the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services" than prisons run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Following the election of President Donald Trump, and after months of rhetoric about rounding up illegal immigrants, it was announced that the federal government would increase its "civil immigrant detention capacity" by more than 450 percent. It's a move that, according to the complaint, is "in essence a 'get into jail and work for free card' from which [CoreCivic] derives nearly $1 billion a year in revenue."

The post Private Immigration Prison Hit With Lawsuit Over Forced Labor appeared first on Vocativ.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.