SEATTLE — A federal jury is deciding whether one of the nation’s biggest private prison companies must pay minimum wage — instead of $1 a day — to immigration detainees who perform tasks like cooking and cleaning at its jail in Washington state.
Democratic Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the Florida-based GEO Group in 2017, saying the company had unjustly profited by running the Northwest detention center in Tacoma on the backs of captive workers.
A separate lawsuit filed on behalf of detainees was also filed that year, seeking back pay. Tacoma-based U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan, who rejected several attempts by GEO to dismiss the lawsuits, consolidated the cases for trial, which he conducted via Zoom because of the pandemic.
“What GEO is doing to exploit captive detainee workers at the Northwest detention center is for real — and at a massive scale,” Assistant Attorney General Andrea Brenneke told the jury…