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Prof. Jacqueline Stevens, Mar. 25, 2019
"Attorneys have been suing private prisons for their exploitation of people in custody under immigration laws, a phenomenon that has been receiving increasing coverage by the mainstream media. But county facilities also are violating labor laws. This post discusses highlights of the labor situation in the Butler County Jail. A document released last week shows that ICE has been aware that Butler County has been requiring people to work without compensation since at least 2014. Here's the text from an email a reporter sent to public affairs official Gillian Christensen, who copied and pasted it in her own email to ICE custody officials Tae Johnson, Kevin Landy, and Andrew Strait-Lorenzen:
Just got call from Sheriff Jones from Butler County Ohio. So, he said that none of the immigrant detainees work on chain gangs, they don't leave the four walls. However, he did say that his immigrant detainees work jobs inside the jail. He houses about 300 immigrants on any given day and typically about 50 are working jobs. I asked him whether these jobs are paid. he said no. "it's just part of what I require". They do all the work on cleaning, upkeep of the section of the jail where they are housed. He estimated it saves him hundreds of thousands of dollars per year not having to hire staff to handle janitorial and such in that section of the jail. He said he is not a member of the federal work progrm so he doesn't get a dollar a day reimbursement because his detainees are housed there for too short a period and the federal paper work would not be worth the headache. (FOIA Supp. Release I, p. 194)
In a New York Times article published shortly after this email, Ian Urbina wrote:
Sheriff Richard K. Jones of Butler County, Ohio, said his county saved at least $200,000 to $300,000 a year by relying on about 40 detainees each month for janitorial work. “All I know is it’s a lot of money saved,” he said.
Urbina's report in the Times is terrific, but omits legally important information: the jail is not paying folks a penny for their work and not participating in the reimbursement program. The private prison firms GEO Corp. and CoreCivic, as well as ICE, have defended paying people in custody under immigration laws $1/day or more based on a section of the Performance Based National Detention Standards and a 1950 statute authorizing payment of allowances for work performed by those held under immigration laws at a rate to be set by Congress from time to time in the appropriations act. (Here is law review article criticizing these legal claims and explaining the program's history.)No one in ICE has provided any legal rationale for incentivizing work by those in custody under immigration laws by more food, visitation, or threats of force, overt or implicit.
All persons in the custody of BICE will be referred to as an "Administrative Detainee". This term recognizes that BICE detainees are not charged with criminal violations and are only held in custody to assure their presence throughout the administrative hearing process...