The private prison company CoreCivic forced immigrant detainees to work for as little as $1 per day if they wanted toilet paper, toothpaste, and safe lodging, charges a lawsuit filed this week in Georgia, The Daily Beast reports. The case against the nation’s largest private prison firm was filed by three current or former inmates at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. The three allege that CoreCivic is violating a federal anti-human trafficking law with the work program it oversees. The center says the program as voluntary. The lawsuit says detainees are paid about $1 to $4 per day for tasks such as mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, and serving meals. Detainees supposedly are told to use their wages to buy toilet paper and other hygiene products from the detention center commissary.
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The only way immigrants can talk to their family outside the detention center is by buying costly phone cards from the commissary, the lawsuit says. Immigrants who resist participating in the work program can face criminal charges or up to 30 days in solitary confinement. They also are subjected to worse living quarters. Those who participate in the work program sometimes get to stay in private two-person “pods” with functioning showers and private bathrooms, a notable upgrade from the conditions of the main dormitories. CoreCivic said the work program complies with all federal rules. A spokesman said the firm has worked closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than 30 years “and will continue to provide a safe and humane environment.” Last year, a federal judge in Colorado let thousands of current and former detainees join a similar lawsuit against GEO Group, the second largest U.S. private prison company.