On Feb. 9, the 10th Circuit upheld a district court ruling that granted class certification to a group of more than 60,000 detainees from an Aurora Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center, run by The GEO Group, Inc. Members of the class were all detained at some point between 2004 and now.
The class is represented by nine individuals who were detained and worked at the facility sometime between 2013 and 2014. A smaller class of roughly between 2,000 to 3,000 individuals were part of the Detainee Voluntary Work Program, and complaints allege they were paid $1 per day for work. The larger group comprises about 60,000 detainees who were forced to work without pay, cleaning the housing units and bathrooms of the facility.
According to the complaint, detainees were threatened with solitary confinement if they did not work, a “horrific kind of punishment,” Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice said. The organization represents the class representatives in the suit.
“I think all academic research on [solitary confinement] suggests that we should as a country be using it less often and it would certainly be psychologically damaging to detainees,” DiSalvo said. “I think most of us, if we were rational, would prefer to clean a toilet than to go to solitary confinement for any length of time.” The suit argues that GEO violated federal forced labor statutes by coercing detainees to clean.