In January Black and Pink reported on a pending appeals court decision, Menocal, et.al. v. GEO Group, Inc. concerning the use of forced labor by private prison companies. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2014 by a group of immigrants who were being held at the Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, CO. The private prison is run by GEO Group, Inc., a multi-billion dollar corporation that is notorious for horrible conditions for prisoners, labor violations and profiteering by lobbying for draconian laws that serve to boost their earnings.
The case claims that GEO violated the Trafficking and Victims Protection Act (TVPA), a law passed to stop human trafficking, for threatening prisoners with prolonged detention and isolation if they refused to work in the prison. The lawsuit also states that GEO, by paying prisoners $1 a day violated a state law against unjust enrichment. The prisoners are required to do most of the janitorial work in the prison. This is one of the common practices in all of the GEO owned prisons and not the only lawsuit against them. There are similar lawsuits against GEO in Washington, Florida, and California. They run the detention center in Adelanto, CA where many were taken in the recent ICE sweeps.
GEO tried to have the lawsuit dismissed as a class action suit and require each person to file suit individually. But the appeals court affirmed the case and divided the suit into two class action cases. The first, the TVPA class, will address all detainees housed at the Aurora Facility in the past ten years. The second, the unjust enrichment class, includes all detainees who participated in the Aurora Facility’s voluntary work program in the past three years. This case will impact around 60,000 current and former immigrants.
Obama announced in August, 2016 that the federal government would be phasing out contracts with private prisons. GEO donated $100,000 to 45’s campaign the next day according to Black and Pink. The president has continued to contract with private prisons and the company’s stock has risen 70% since his election. ICE contracts over 60% of the prison beds for immigrants from private prisons. That means that the government is paying for the beds, not per person, so it has a vested interest in keeping those beds filled.
It may be years before Menocal, et.al. v. GEO is settled. In the meantime ICE is arresting people all over and private prisons are thriving.
CLOSE THE PRISONS. OPEN THE BORDERS.