Forced labor should not be legal in the United States. But it is, and it’s rife in the U.S. prison and immigration detention industry, with public and private actors to blame.
Under the 13th Amendment, involuntary servitude remains legal as punishment for a crime. However, even those who are not convicted of crimes – including immigrant detainees – have allegedly been subjected to forced labor behind bars.
The U.S. public and private prison and immigration detention industry has long been built to exploit profit from inmates who, in some cases are forced to work under threat of punishment or penalty, in contravention with international standards.1