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

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frederick hill

The rapaciousness of the corporate sector in creating a captive (!!!) pool of unregulated labor through the prison system is being reinforced by the progressive denial of thewelfare services which is forcing more peopleat the vulnerable edge of society into crime, and bu the unacceptable reality that the prison system itself is a source of profit.

Ann Ingram

Thank The Good Lord for people like Freedom United and other organisations who work tirelessly to give the downtrodden Hope and dignity. I Pray you continue to flourish!

Annie Cass

Far too much of modern capitalism relies on simple slavery. This has apparently exploded in recent decades, and we need to hold the perpetrators accountable!

Phil Lee

Slavery is a crime, lock up the criminals (the shareholders, employees and company officers in this forced labor system) and see how they like it!


No one, no matter if the individual is a felon or not, should be forced into labour of any kind! If there is work to do in a prison or detention centre, the individuals working there should be given at least the going minimum wage! Education should be the aim for all inmates, education to raise them out of the mindset that put them into incarceration in the first place. Earning a good living once they’re released will prevent the majority from ever coming back to prisons again.


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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