Critics are alarmed at the rising fortunes of an industry that had fallen out of favor with the Obama administration. Class-action lawsuits accuse jail operators of “forced labor.”
The Trump administration wants to expand its network of immigrant jails. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has called for five new detention facilities to be built and operated by private prison corporations, NPR reports. Critics are alarmed at the rising fortunes of an industry that had fallen out of favor with the Obama administration. The Joe Corley Detention Facility is a sprawling complex in Conroe, Tx., an hour north of Houston. ICE spends more than $2 billion a year on immigrant detention through private jails like it. Corley is owned by GEO Group, the nation’s largest private prison company.
ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service pay GEO $32 million a year to house, feed, and provide medical care for a thousand detainees. Douglas Menjivar, a former ICE detainee, says he was raped by gang members in his cell at Conroe, and when he reported it, he was mocked. His lawyer has filed a civil rights complaint. Menjivar, 42, is a Salvadoran who entered the country illegally. He is fighting to get legal status in immigration court. Menjivar has become a bitter critic of immigrant detention centers which are supposed to be holding facilities for civil matters, not prisons for meting out punishment. He says he was forced to work for a dollar a day. The forced labor allegations are part of two class-action lawsuits. GEO “strongly refutes” these claims and plans to fight them. The company says detainee labor is voluntary and that the dollar-a-day rate is set by ICE.