Immigrants held by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Denver Contract Detention Facility have alleged that the private prison forced them to work for $1 per day. This suit was first filed back in 2014, but has now been awarded class-action status. This marks the first time in history that a class-action lawsuit has moved forward against a private US prison company.
The Denver center is under contract with ICE and is owned and operated by GEO Group. If the allegations are true, the for-profit prison company GEO Group will be in violation of American anti-slavery laws.
The operation of private prison systems in the United States have sparked discussion recently, but to no avail. Private prisons remain a staple in the US justice system despite accusations of prisoner abuse from private vendors in Mississippi, Michigan, and Florida.
In 2015 there was a full investigation into private prison owners, Youth Services International. YSI responded by voluntarily cutting ties with the prison, after facing allegations of improperly trained staff, and incidents of the staff using children to inflict harm upon the other children. Reports of similar incidents have surfaced all over the United States, but the class action suit against GEO Group as a result of the events that took place in Denver, is the first of its kind. The story has received some coverage from the Washington Post.
The class action suit may be the first step toward bringing the issue greater coverage by the establishment press and ultimately removing private prisons from the American justice system.
Tess Owen, “(Forced) Labor Dispute: Detained immigrants suing a private prison company over forced labor move forward with groundbreaking class action,” VICE News, February 28, 2017, https://news.vice.com/story/detained-immigrants-suing-a-private-prison-company-over-forced-labor-move-forward-with-groundbreaking-class-action.
“Lawsuit: GEO Group Violated Anti-Slavery Laws by Forcing Imprisoned Immigrants to Work for $1 a Day,” Democracy Now!, March 6, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/3/6/headlines/lawsuit_geo_group_violated_anti_slavery_laws_by_forcing_imprisoned_immigrants_to_work_for_1_a_day.
Breanna Edwards, “Class Action Lawsuit Claims Thousands of ICE Detainees Were Forced Into Labor, Violating Anti-Slavery Laws,” The Root, March 6, 2017, http://www.theroot.com/class-action-lawsuit-claims-thousands-of-ice-detainees-1793008061.
Student Researcher: Michaela Solomon (University of Regina)
Faculty Evaluator: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)