The state of Washington is suing the country’s second-largest private prison corporation for paying thousands of incarcerated workers only one dollar per day, or in some cases paying them only in snacks, candy or extra chicken. The workers are non-criminal detainees at an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center in Tacoma run by the multi-billion dollar GEO Group.
Assistant Attorney General La Rond Baker is one of those leading the case:
[La Rond Baker]: “GEO relies almost exclusively on detainee labor to perform all of the necessary functions to keep the facility operating and functional…and GEO doesn’t pay them the minimum wage, but pays them instead a dollar a day or snacks or extra chicken for the work. And we believe that violates our state’s minimum wage laws and we also believe that GEO Group, Incorporated has become unjustly enriched by not paying the state minimum wage for a private detention facility that is run for profit. Detainees raised their concerns about the dollar day doing hunger strikes that have been going off-and-on this year. They’ve also raised concerns that quality of food, healthcare, cleanliness of the facility.“
The state’s lawsuit calls for GEO to comply with the state’s minimum wage laws and give up the millions of dollars in ill-gotten profits made by underpaying workers:
[La Rond Baker]: “We are seeking it to put into a fund that would help people who are, in the future, detained in that facility, and to help workers who didn’t have job opportunities because of GEOs practices. So, not specifically individual back pay for people who were in the facility. We’re looking to make sure to alleviate the harm going forward.”