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Private Prison Corporation Sued for Wage Theft and Forced Labor

The GEO Group, Inc. illegally forces civil immigration detainees at the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California to work for only $1 per day  

LOS ANGELES, CA –  Thousands of detained immigrants are forced to work for only $1 per day in violation of minimum wage and forced labor laws, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed today by Burns Charest LLP and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free.

The lawsuit alleges that the nation’s largest private prison company, the GEO Group, Inc. (“GEO”), violates state and federal law by forcing immigration detainees to clean, maintain, and operate the Adelanto Detention Center.

According to the complaint, GEO withholds daily necessities from its detainees to coerce them to work for $1 per day. But for this scheme, GEO would have to hire non-detainee workers and pay them the state-mandated minimum wage, which is currently $10.50 per hour.

“GEO has significantly reduced its labor costs and increased its profits by forcing its own detainees to perform uncompensated labor,” said Korey Nelson, an attorney for the plaintiff class. “Forcing immigrants to work for $1 a day is abusive, illegal, and immoral.”

Lead plaintiff Raul Novoa is a legal permanent resident of the United States who was detained at the Adelanto Detention Center for nearly three years. During that time, he worked for GEO as a janitor and barber in order to purchase soap, food, and bottled water from the GEO-run commissary.  Novoa alleges that GEO threatened him and other detainees with disciplinary segregation or solitary confinement if they refused to work.

According to the complaint, GEO’s policies and practices violate California minimum wage law and the California Unfair Competition Law, as well as federal and state Trafficking Victims Protection Acts, prohibiting modern-day slavery.

GEO is the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services with 104 facilities, approximately 87,000 beds, and 20,500 employees around the globe. GEO’s 2016 revenues were over $2 billion, and its stock is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Adelanto Detention Center, a 1,940-bed facility located approximately 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is owned and operated by GEO under a contract with the United States Immigrant and Customs Enforcement. Since its construction in 2011, more than 73,000 civil immigration detainees have passed through the facility.

The lawsuit, Novoa v. The Geo Group, Inc., Case No. 5:17-cv-02514, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. View the filed complaint.


Burns Charest, LLP is a litigation firm with offices in New Orleans and Dallas. Burns Charest represents plaintiffs in complex class actions, multi-district litigation, and other high-impact cases. More information about the firm can be found at www.burnscharest.com

The Law Office of R. Andrew Free is a social justice legal startup based in Nashville. The firm focuses on stopping unjust deportations, attacking criminalization and mass incarceration for profit, and holding abusive bosses, government agencies, and officials accountable in federal court. More information can be found at   www.immigrantcivilrights.com.