Help stop forced labor in U.S. detention -

Help stop forced labor in U.S. detention

“…detainees began to work in the kitchen just so they could eat more…one detainee lost 68 lbs. Their ‘volunteering’ involved literally working for food.”1

Immigrants detained in a private prison in San Diego allege that they have been subjected to forced labor and threatened with solitary confinement or restricted visitation rights if they refused to work.2

The complainants say the company that owns the prison, CoreCivic, one of the largest private prison companies in the US, pays at most $1.50 per day, and sometimes nothing at all, for their work as kitchen staff, janitors, barbers and in various other roles.

But reports of forced labor are not isolated to immigration detention centers. In Oklahoma, offenders sentenced to rehabilitation end up forced into labor on chicken farms, without any recourse or access to an actual recovery program.3 Prisoners in California are forced into labor and made to risk their lives fighting the state’s wildfires for a dollar an hour or less.4

Forced labor in prisons is not an immigration issue, it’s an American one, replicated worldwide.

The United States is home to the largest prison system in the world, housing 25% of the world’s prisoners but only 5% of the global population, and spends more than $80 billion a year. Incarceration rates in the United States have increased by 700% in the last four decades, even though crime has dramatically decreased.5 Among those incarcerated, more than 60% are people of color. And Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.6

This system of mass incarceration – at a rate per capita that surpasses every country on earth – is inherently discriminatory, disproportionately affecting communities of color while creating a never-ending pool of people to be exploited through forced labor in prisons and detention centers across the country for corporate gain.

Rolling back President Obama’s progress on minimizing private prison industry contracts, President Trump has called for an increase of prisons and detainment centers by upwards of 450%, perpetuating and embedding a system that exploits people of color for private benefit.7

The Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which intended to end slavery, shockingly permits its use as a punishment for crime.8 CoreCivic claims to align with international standards but over the years has faced multiple complaints for violating prisoners’ rights.9

CoreCivic must address allegations of forced labor, state that forced labor will not be tolerated, and raise wages for voluntary work by prisoners and detainees, that is comparable with free labor, to help stop exploitation.

CoreCivic is also currently facing another class-action complaint for allegedly attempting to defraud its investors by falsely representing improved operational policies and procedures around the rights and dignity of prisoners and detainees in multiple centers.10 We must speak out and let them know forced labor in detention is unacceptable.

Will you join us in helping to stop slavery in prison?


  8.!/amendments/13/essays/166/abolition-of-slavery11  It does not provide for the use of slavery against civil detainees in immigration centers. Additionally, regulations introduced in 2015 aim to end trafficking in government contracting. 

    Minimum international standards around the use of prison labor are outlined in the International Labour Organization’s Forced Labor Convention. It states that prisoners, just as free persons, must not be forced to work under threat of penalty or loss of privileges. Furthermore, wages should be comparable to those of free workers and health and safety measures should be taken as well.12–en/index.htm#Q3


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22 Comments on "Help stop forced labor in U.S. detention"

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Not acceptable in the present world, this should never hapoen


Sorry there should be more forced labor,like it used to be,punishment,means what it says.No work,no food,or let all the liberals feed and shelter them.If there was more punishment,you would see the crime rate go down.But the judges and lawyers,don,t want that,less work for them,we have a lawyer behind every bush and tree now,way too many.

Mark Mercer

I am forced to work in order to live and support my family. Prisoners live entirely for free at my expense. Earning a contrubution to their cost is a good thing, not a crime.

Emily Ullrich

This is a subject about which I am deeply concerned. Because the majority of prisoners are people of color, come from low to no income families, and/or do not speak English, can’t read or write, and a number of other obstacles, they are being abused and taken advantage of. It is inhumane and unjust. There is no level of rehabilitation in this scenario, and the prison becomes a for-profit entity with the use of what is essentially slave labor.


Ironic. The US detains and deports foreign nationals to protect jobs for Americans but while they await deportation they force them to work for free in those jobs Americans do not want. And Trump believes that other countries are “****holes”? He should look to what is happening in his own country first. But then, he is a well – known abuser of labour.


CoreCivic: Help stop forced labor in the U.S. prison & detention system

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To: Damon T. Hininger, President and CEO, CoreCivic

We welcome CoreCivic’s stated commitment to human rights laid out in your Human Rights Policy Statement1 but express our deep concern regarding recent allegations of forced labor in the Otay Mesa Detention Center set out in a pending class action lawsuit, which suggests this commitment is not being met.

Noting the allegations against CoreCivic, the increasing use of forced labor against civil detainees in immigration centers, and as one of the country’s largest providers of prison and detention services, we urge CoreCivic to:

– Address forced labor allegations at Otay Mesa and provide remediation where required;

– Add explicit language denouncing forced labor to the company’s Human Rights Policy Statement, with measures to verify that it is enforced and enacted across all company sites; and

– Raise the wages paid to detainees for voluntary work to a level that is comparable for free workers, as set out in International Labour Organization standards.

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