The Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) located in Tacoma, WA houses people awaiting civil immigration hearings or deportations. It is the State of Washington’s only private prison. Recently, the company that manages the for-profit prison, GEO Group, was served with a lawsuit from the Attorney General’s office.
Washington’s Only Private Prison Becomes Target of Private Prison Lawsuit
The GEO Group Inc. is violating the state’s minimum wage laws by paying the detainees a pittance for work that is required to maintain the facility.
The inmates cook, clean the bathrooms, do laundry among other activities required for the upkeep of the prison. They are paid only $1 a day or given few extra snacks.
The Required Settlement
From January 2017, the law requires that that workers earn at least $11 per hour. Washington’s only private prison should not be exempt from this law.
This law does not apply to residents, inmates or patients of the state, county or municipal correctional, detention, treatment or rehabilitative institutions.
“A multi-billion dollar corporation is trying to get away with paying its workers $1 per day,” AG Bob Ferguson says in a prepared statement. “That shouldn’t happen in America, and I will not tolerate it happening in Washington. For-profit companies cannot exploit Washington workers.”
GEO group contracts with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to operate the facility declined to answer some questions. The company, however, communicated through an emailed statement that the GEO does not approve of the baseless accusations and will go to whatever lengths to defend their company against the claims.
This statement continues to state that the wages for volunteer work programs are determined by the federal government. Washington’s only private prison is trying to use this as its defense.
Poor Services Within the Prison
As reported by grassroots group NWDC Resistance community organizer, Maru Mora-Villalpando, the inmates are served food with maggots or fingernails. Those that cannot afford to purchase food from the commissary have to work for the facility.
This is the only way they can get edible food at Washington’s only private prison.
The hygiene of the facility is also wanting and do not have good access to medical facilities. This has made the inmates to go on hunger strikes ever since 2014 to raise awareness about these conditions in the facility.
They feel that this is the only way to express themselves and for them to be heard. She points out that these strikes have been the major influence of the attorney general’s lawsuit.
But, Maru Mora-Villalpando disputes GEO’s description of a “volunteer” program.
She wants the Northwest Detention Center closed down due to this harsh conditions they make the inmates live under.
What the Laws Against the Washington Prison Entails
GEO Group is asked to give up all profits they made by underpaying the detainees over the years. This amount is estimated to be in the millions, by the attorney General.
The group operates another 140 detention facilities. The Attorney General’s office reports that its revenues surpasses $2 billion.
The Florida-based private prison company has contracted with ICE since 2005. In 2015, they extended their contract to 2025.