Private Prison Operator GEO Accused of Paying Forced Labor $1 a Day

Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Alejandro Menocal, former GEO detainee who is party to lawsuit (photo: Brennan Linsley, AP)

One of the nation’s largest private prison operators is being sued for forcing immigrant detainees to work for a dollar a day, and in some cases even less than that.


GEO Group Inc., which contracts with the government to imprison illegal immigrants awaiting deportation proceedings, has allegedly forced detainees held at its facility in Colorado to do maintenance work while paying them only $1 a day. The chores included cleaning toilets, showers, windows and floors; doing laundry, clerical and landscape work; operating the law library; plus preparing and serving meals for GEO law enforcement events, according to ThinkProgress.


A lawsuit (pdf) filed by nine current and former detainees at the 1,500-bed Aurora Detention Facility also says they were told to clean prison cells without receiving any compensation. Those who refused were threatened with being placed in solitary confinement, according to the complaint.


The suit seeks to represent more than 1,000 detainees who had been forced to work for free at the facility since 2004.


GEO Group lawyers tried to get the federal judge overseeing the case to dismiss the class-action lawsuit. But District Judge John L. Kane in Denver rejected the company’s motion, allowing the litigation to proceed.


The plaintiffs’ attorney, Brandt Milstein, praised the ruling. “This case is really important because private companies that are in the business of incarcerating immigrants for profit should not be allowed to pad their profit margins by forcing the detainees to work for nothing, or next to nothing,” Milstein told Law360. “Our hope is that building on this ruling we’ll be able to stop private prison companies from forcing the people who they detain to do the work of maintaining the facility that the company itself should be tasked with doing.”


GEO claims that it follows wage rates established by the federal government, including standards set by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. However, Milstein has argued that GEO Group’s actions have violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.


The GEO Group reported $1.52 billion in total revenue in 2013, according to ThinkProgress.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Slave Labor Suit Against GEO Advances in Denver: Menocal v. Geo Group (by Daniel M. Kowalski, Law360)

Private Prison Allegedly Forced Immigrant Detainees Into Labor, Paid Them Just $1 Per Day (by Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, ThinkProgress)

Alejandro Menocal v. Geo Group (U.S. District Court, Colorado) (pdf)

Putting Immigrants in Prison is Profitable…if You’re the Corporations CCA and GEO (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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