Campaign to Raise Wages in Geo Group Prisons
It is with immense frustration that I write to you on the behalf of ALL offenders that are in the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) prisons that are run and operated by The Geo Group Inc. (a private prison corporation). Prisoners here are receiving “State Pay,” which consists of the following:
The level of unequal wages from The Geo Group Inc. regarding this effort is appalling. Indiana Government Officials have unfortunately failed to address the problem and have allowed the “State Pay” wage disorder to continue.
In the State of Washington, on 27 October 2021, a Federal Jury ordered The Geo Group Inc. at the ICE Processing Center (formerly the Northwest Detention Center) liable under the State Minimum Wage Act (MWA). In Washington, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit alleging that The Geo Group Inc. was violating the state minimum wage law. The U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan ordered The Geo Group in Tacoma, Washington to pay their detainees $13.69 hour. These are immigrant detainees. These immigrant detainees were represented by four (4) law firms. Names of the law firms are as follows;
- Schroeter Goldmark & Bender – Seattle, WA
- Open Sky Law PLLC – Kent, WA
- Menter Immigration Law PLLC – Seattle, WA
- Law Offices of Robert A. Free – Nashville, TN(1)
We believe that our pay here, less than 2% of the pay received in Washington, is discrimination by The Geo Group Inc. here at the Indiana Geo Facilities.
On 26 January 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr (D) signed an order and stated… “to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration that is less humane and less safe”. We believe that The Geo Group Inc. is violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace. State prisoners may not be entitled to State Minimum Wage, but there is NO exception for private for-profit detainees, prisoners, or offenders here. The Geo Group prioritizes profits over rehabilitation, making us ALL less safe.
Indiana Government Officials and The Geo Group Inc. have to remember that we are in an inflationary economy. Us prisoners here at The Geo Group Inc. facilities here in Indiana are getting overwhelmed, over-worked, and frustrated simply because we do not have the same income or access to resources as others. We have material needs such as hygiene, property, food, etc. that cannot be met due to the “State Pay” wages that have NOT kept up with the exorbitant price of living.
At the Indiana Department of Corrections commissary from the Indiana Correctional Industries Plainfield, IN Distribution Center, the prices of our needs are increasing dramatically due to the inflationary factor. NO prisoner in The Geo Group Inc. private run prison(s) who gets State Pay should ever cower in fear of his/her employer‘s power to silence legitimate points of view of their wages.
The State of Indiana and/or The Geo Group Inc. needs to raise the starting pay wage significantly to a reasonable wage. It is time for the State of Indiana and/or The Geo Group Inc. to make the financial adjustments and changes.
We believe that there are laws, ordinances, policies, rules, acts, statutes, procedures, or even regulations that have been violated or criminalized by our Constitution in the Fair Labor Standards Act (F.L.S.A), Administrator of Wages & Hour Division, U.S. Deptartment of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Labor Management Relations Act, etc. We know Indiana Government officials Governor Eric J Holecomb, Commissioner Robert E Carter Jr, Deputy Commissioner/Chief Financial Officer Dan Brassard, are the individuals who control our scale wage that makes the financial adjustments and changes in our “State Pay” for the The Geo Group Inc. to pay our wages.
A raise in starting pay will be a positive thing allowing more offenders to find satisfaction in their careers and it can allow more workers to make a living wage and contribute to the broader economy. Our facility jobs are not a free pass to wipe our slates clean, they are an acknowledgment that we have to change our lives to be more accountable and the State of Indiana and/or The Geo Group Inc. is what will allow us to do that. A productive offender in the Geo Group facility with a fair wage will perform better work ethics, do things properly, and have better responsibility.
We as prisoners are entitled to be paid minimum wage or a fair wage for our labor keeping The Geo Group Inc. facilities up and running, like preparing and serving food, running laundry, maintenance, landscaping, mowing, sanitation, administration clerks, etc. We are not asking to be put on an indefinite leave of absence means or that ALL Geo Group contracts be terminated. We are exercising our rights, which are workers rights, and show that we have a right to stand up for each other and for justice for Geo Group Inc. prisoners who work at their facility and receive state pay wages.
Please take into consideration, when we do get our “State Pay” the I.D.O.C takes 15% right off the top. This money goes into our re-entry account which we receive back upon our release back into the community. This gives us a little financial assistance. Now here is this Geo Group Inc. offender who has a C-Pay job, which is $0.15 an hour, works 6.5 hours a day, 5-days a week, comes out to be $19.50 per month. Now the State takes 15% for re-entry which comes out to $2.89. This leaves you only $16.32 a week to buy hygiene, property, food, paper, pens, etc. And if you went to go to medical or dental, that’s a $5.00 charge and the medication is $5.00.
Please also investigate the Geo Group Inc. in Tacoma, Washington where they are paying immigrant detainees $13.69 an hour. This is discriminating against us offenders and manipulating us due to what they pay us as “State Pay” here in Indiana.
- State of Washington Attorney General – Bob Ferguson filed lawsuit against The Geo Group Inc. in 2017 [Washington v. Geo Group, USDC, W. Dist. WA. Case No. 3:17-cv-05806RJB]
- Detainees filed lawsuit in 2017 with assistance of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender and Robert Andrew Free [Nwauzor v. Geo Group, USDC, W. Dist. WA, Case No. C17-5769RJB]
Thank you for your time and patience.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we want to remind our readers that a very small percentage of prisoners in this country are in private prisons, and most of them are immigrant detention centers like the one in Washington discussed. As the author above argues, there are potential legal differences in how labor is considered in private prisons compared to most prisons. And economically it is very different because corporations like Geo Group are making money running prisons for the state, but using basically free labor to do much of that work. This is a very dangerous combination that economically incentivizes mass incarceration.
In our 2018 survey of prison labor across the United $tates we found that wages for maintenance work typically ranged between $0.14 and $0.63 per hour. Though of course in some states prisoners do not get paid at all for working to maintain the prisons. This puts Indiana at the low end of states that do pay. But as this comrade and others have recently pointed out, inflation is hitting hard in the form of commissary prices. Therefore to have wages at the low end from 5 years ago is far from adequate when most prisoners need to buy supplemental hygiene and food, not to mention minor comforts.
Based on the information we can find online, the Geo Group stopped having prisoners work right after the court decision, so no prisoners are getting paid minimum wage. In addition they appealed to delay back-paying those who had already worked in the past.(2)
1. Prison Legal News, December 2021 Vol. 32 No. 12 pg. 26 and April 2022 Vol. 33 No. 4 pg. 30. published by the Human Rights Defense Center
2. Alanna Madden, 6 October 2022, Ninth Circuit takes up Geo Group appeal over underpaid detainees, Courthouse News Service.