Help stop forced labor in U.S. detention -
Campaign Update:

May 2018: Pressure is mounting as two new cases have been brought against CoreCivic where plaintiffs allege forced labor, in Texas earlier this year, and Georgia, last month. Both cases are ongoing. Click here to read more.

Help stop forced labor in U.S. detention

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“…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

  • May 2018: Pressure is mounting as two new cases have been brought against CoreCivic where plaintiffs allege forced labor, in Texas earlier this year, and Georgia, last month. Both cases are ongoing. Click here to read more.

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

newest oldest most voted
Mike meveer

All prisoners should be gainfully employed to help pay for their keep and to encourage a work ethic. This is not slavery.

Michael S Stuart

Regarding high incarceration rate (continued from below): If we want fewer prisoners, I think we need more intact, 2-parent families who properly socialize boys. I think teen girls need to be taught to either save sex for marriage (which is my goal as a Christian) or use condoms. And if your boyfriend isn’t mature enough to be a dad & committed enough to be a husband, then DON’T make babies with him!!!

Michael S Stuart

Regarding high incarceration rate: I believe one root of this problem is sexual irresponsibility. Christians call this sexual immorality. When young women & teen girls become sexually active with immature boyfriends, sometimes out-of-wedlock babies are born. These babies start their 1st day of life with large disadvantages! Immature boyfriends often turn into dead-beat dads. I think you’ll find that many prisoners never had a real dad. The gov’t can give food stamps, but can’t be a dad

Bartholomew O'DONOVAN
Bartholomew O'DONOVAN

Seems that the “Land of the Free” is a relative situation. With family in the US I am wondering about their safety and they are bond fide citizens, but when rampant right wingers get going no one is safe!

Michael S Stuart

As a human-rights activist, I certainly have a problem with forced labor for asylum seekers and victims of sex trafficking. On the other hand, for those criminals who had a fair trial and are convicted of serious crimes, I do not see a problem with making them work. I think if they work hard, they should be rewarded with privileges and perhaps get out early on parole. Does Freedom United disagree? /

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

30,803 actions of 50,000 goal

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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