Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued The GEO Group, Inc., which provides private prison services at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., for paying immigrant detainees in the center just $1 a day for labor.
The private detention center depends on detainee labor for nearly all non-security functions – including cleaning and maintenance work. By neglecting to pay the minimum wage, Ferguson alleges, GEO illegally netted millions in profits.
City, county and state jails and prisons don't have to pay minimum wage in Washington, but the attorney general asserts that the Northwest Detention Center is a private institution and is required to abide by minimum wage requirements. The lawsuit alleges that detainees were sometimes paid with food instead of wages.
The Stranger reported that GEO "strongly refutes the baseless and meritless allegations made in this lawsuit" and claims that its work program is voluntary. (That would in theory exempt it from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy that requires jails to pay at least $1 per day and also follow state laws on minimum wages.)