[ ‘How convenient and profitable for wealthy private prisons to
exploit detained immigrant labor rather than hire regularly waged
employees.’ ] [https://portside.org/] 



 Azadeh Shahshahani 
 May 17, 2018
The Guardian

	* [https://portside.org/node/17238/printable/print]

 _ ‘How convenient and profitable for wealthy private prisons to
exploit detained immigrant labor rather than hire regularly waged
employees.’ _ 

 , Gina Ferazzi/LA Times via Getty Images 


In 2017, officials at the Stewart immigration detention center in
Georgia placed Shoaib Ahmed, a 24-year-old immigrant from
Bangladesh, in solitary confinement
[https://theintercept.com/2018/01/11/ice-detention-solitary-confinement/] for
encouraging fellow workers to stop working.

Ahmed, who was paid 50 cents per hour to work within the facility, was
upset because his $20 paycheck was delayed. His punishment was
solitary confinement for 10 days, where he was subject to deplorable
conditions – a cell with no access to other workers, only an hour of
out of cell time per day and showers only three times per week.
Detailing the impact that severe isolation has had on his mental
health, Ahmed said
“I think the segregation will kill me.”

Stewart is operated by the largest prison corporation in the US,
CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), under a
contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). The
corporation’s net income
year was $178m

Ahmed’s experience mirrors that of a growing number of detained
immigrants at facilities across the US who are subjected to forced

In April, we filed a lawsuit
[https://projectsouth.org/private-prison-company-uses-forced-labor-of-detained-immigrants-in-georgia-to-boost-profits/] on
behalf of Shoaib Ahmed and others against CoreCivic, alleging that the
prison corporation violates human trafficking laws and employs a
deprivation scheme to force immigrants detained at Stewart to work for
sub-minimum wages, and then threatens to punish them for refusing to
work through solitary confinement or loss of access to necessities. A
lawsuit against Geo Group, another prison corporation, is moving
forward for using similar practices at the Aurora Detention Center in
Colorado, violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Stewart relies on the labor of detained immigrants to keep the cooking
and cleaning and other basic operations going. How convenient and
profitable for the largest and wealthiest prison corporation to
exploit detained immigrant labor rather than hire regularly waged

CoreCivic’s abuse and exploitation of detained immigrants’ labor
as part of its profit-making schemes constitute a contemporary form of
slavery as we detailed
a submission to the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of
migrants. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(which the US has ratified) states
“slavery … in all [its] forms shall be prohibited,” and that no
one, including detained immigrants
“shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor”.

Stewart employs a deprivation system in which officials provide
immigrants with inadequate food and basic living supplies and require
immigrants to purchase them at exorbitant costs at the commissary.
While officials portray the labor program as “voluntary” in light
of the 13th amendment of the US constitution, detained immigrants are
often penalized for refusing to work. Officials at Stewart take
advantage of immigrants for cheap labor and overuse solitary
confinement to punish immigrants, oftentimes for the mere act
of speaking up
[https://theintercept.com/2018/04/19/solitary-confinement-immigration-detention-ice-corecivic/] and
demanding their rights, as happened to Shoaib Ahmed.

CoreCivic’s exploitation of detained immigrants’ labor as part of
its profit-making constitutes a modern form of slavery

Adding to the deprivation system, Stewart officials enforce
unreasonably strict eating schedules and provide immigrants with
inadequate food portions, forcing many immigrants to purchase
additional food from overpriced commissaries, as detailed in a report
last year. Almost all immigrants detained at Stewart say they are
given insufficient food. As one detained immigrant from Mexico stated
“I believe the reason why the facility gives the detainees so little
food is so we will have to buy food from the commissary. Everything in
the commissary is expensive. I spend $80 a week, $320 a month, in the

None of this bothered a group of 18 Republican lawmakers including
three from Georgia who sent a letter to Jeff Sessions, Ice, and the
Department of Labor asking them to help the private prison company
Geo Group
[https://www.thedailybeast.com/republicans-say-forced-labor-is-good-for-detained-immigrants-in-letter-defending-private-prison] defend
itself against the lawsuits. They actually alleged that the labor
programs are good for the detained individuals as they “reduce the
negative impact of confinement through decreased idleness, improved
morale, and [lead to] fewer disciplinary incidents”.

Improved morale? Shoaib Ahmed, who has since been deported and still
suffers from psychological trauma and distress, would beg to differ.

These legislators’ support for the prison corporations perhaps
should not come as a surprise. CoreCivic gave $295,642
[https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals.php?id=D000021940&cycle=2012&eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=22db1c25-65c6-4920-a7cc-02dd4abe32a3] in federal
political contributions
the 2016 election cycle. Ninety-six percent of that money
[https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals.php?id=D000021940&cycle=2012&eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=22db1c25-65c6-4920-a7cc-02dd4abe32a3] went
to Republicans
including Lamar Smith of Texas, one of the signatories of the letter.

Private prison companies contributed
[https://www.facingsouth.org/2018/04/institute-index-challenging-forced-labor-immigrant-detention-centers] $1.6m
[https://www.opensecrets.org/industries./indus.php?ind=G7000&eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=22db1c25-65c6-4920-a7cc-02dd4abe32a3] during
the 2016 federal election cycle.

Immigrants who choose to work at the detention facilities should be
paid a living wage. It goes without saying that they should not be
pressured into working. Prison corporations that have for years
enriched themselves by exploiting detained immigrant labor should be
held accountable. So should the politicians who support this inhumane
and illegal scheme.

_Azadeh Shahshahani is legal & advocacy director at Project South and
a past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She tweets
@ashahshahani. The federal class action lawsuit
[https://projectsouth.org/private-prison-company-uses-forced-labor-of-detained-immigrants-in-georgia-to-boost-profits/] was
filed by Project South jointly with the Southern Poverty Law Center,
attorney Andrew Free, and the law firm Burns Charest LLP against


	* [https://portside.org/node/17238/printable/print]







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