A detained immigrant who was paid $1 a day for his work at a privately run detention facility in California was reportedly subjected to higher than normal prices for goods at the site’s commissary.
Duglas Cruz, a Honduran detainee who spent eight months at the Adelanto Detention Facility last year, told Reuters that he had to resort to bartering for cookies and ramen noodles because he couldn’t afford goods at the commissary.
According to Reuters, a can of tuna was being sold at the commissary for $3.25 – reportedly more than four times the price tag at a Target near Adelanto.
A separate center, run by CoreCivic Inc., which reportedly also pays $1-a-day wages, charged detainees $11.02 for a 4 oz. tube of Sensodyne toothpaste that costs $5.20 on Amazon.com, according to Reuters.
"CoreCivic ensures all daily needs of detainees are taken care of including three meals a day, clothing, underwear, socks, shoes, sheets, blanket, towels, laundry bag and personal hygiene products such as soap, (toilet) tissue, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush and disposable razors," Amanda Gilchrist, a spokeswoman for the company, told The Hill in a statement. "Detainees can choose to purchase additional items at the commissary, but the facility provides for all the daily needs listed above at no cost to the detainee."
Some immigration attorneys have reportedly said the hiked-up prices are part of a larger effort by privately run prisons and facilities to profit off cheap labor from inmates.
Adelanto, which is owned by Geo Group Inc., the largest for-profit corrections company in the U.S., has faced accusations from migrants and activists that it purposely skimps on basic essentials to coerce migrants into cheap labor.
Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the company, dismissed the allegations as “completely false” in a statement to Reuters, adding that detainees at facilities operated under Geo Group are given dietician-approved meals and a volunteer labor program.
The company said its commissary prices are “in line with comparable local markets” and that the Geo Group earns only a “minimal commission” on the goods. The bulk of that commission is reportedly directed to a “welfare fund” for other items for detainees.
A company representative told The Hill that the commissary is run by a third-party vendor, and that Geo Group does not profit off the commissary sales.
The representative also said the daily wage paid to detainees is set by the federal government and that detainees at its centers are provided about a dozen different types of hygiene products upon request.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reportedly the top customer by revenue for Geo Group, which has added hundreds of beds to its immigration detention facilities in the past year.
Updated at 3:04 p.m.