Major U.S. Detention Center Sued for ‘Exploiting’ Detainees

Washington state has sued the operator of one of the largest private immigration-detention centers in the country for allegedly paying detainees $1 a day for work when they should have received the minimum wage. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit against the GEO Group on Wednesday, saying the Florida-based company made millions of dollars by “exploiting” detainees. According to the lawsuit, detainees have been doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and other chores since 2005 for a mere $1 a day, while Ferguson says GEO Group’s contract with the federal government requires the company to pay the state’s minimum wage on top of that. “The law is clear. They should have been paid the state’s minimum wage at the time they were working,” Ferguson said. The suit seeks a court order to make GEO Group comply with minimum-wage laws and turn over the millions of dollars in profit it allegedly made by underpaying detainees. GEO Group, which runs the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, has denied the claims.