The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is suing CoreCivic, a private prison profiteer accused of forcing immigrant detainees jailed under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “to work for as little as $1 a day to clean, cook, and maintain the detention center in a scheme to maximize profits.” The lawsuit lasers in on one facility in Georgia that has essentially been threatening detainees with torture unless they work.
“Detained immigrants at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia who refuse to work,” SPLC said, “are threatened with solitary confinement and the loss of access to basic necessities, like food, clothing, products for personal hygiene, and phone calls to loved ones, in violation of federal anti-trafficking laws, according to the lawsuit,” and all part of a depraved plan to save the company cash despite $1.7 billion in profits last year.
“The ‘Dollar-a-Day’ program creates a lucrative profit scenario for CoreCivic,” SPLC continues. “Detained immigrants are forced to purchase basic necessities from CoreCivic’s commissary, and the primary way to fund their purchases is to participate in the work program that is necessary for the operation of the facility. These jobs include providing basic functions at the facility like cooking and cleaning, work for which CoreCivic would otherwise have to hire and pay outside employees.”
Only a small percentage of immigrant detainees are held in government-owned facilities, with the vast majority held, through ICE contracts, in county jails and private facilities. But these facilities have for years now been accused of subpar conditions, inadequate medical care, and other miseries—sometimes with deadly consequences. Last year, GEO Group—another private prison company with lucrative government contracts—had three immigrant detainee deaths in the span of three months in one California prison alone.
“Just at the Stewart Detention Center earlier this year,” Think Progress reported, “a Cuban immigrant slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He was the third immigrant to die at a Georgia-based immigration detention center in less than a year.”
Yet, the Trump administration wants to ramp up his mass deportation dragnet, in turn lining the pockets of these private prison profiteers. "American taxpayers should not be subsidizing the abuse and exploitation of immigrants in private detention centers,” said U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “The Department of Homeland Security has a legal and moral obligation to take immediate action to ensure that private detention centers follow the law and treat all people in their custody with dignity and respect.”