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The Real 'Modern Slavery'? Inside America's Court-Ordered Corporate Labor Camps

Under the guise of getting addicts treatment, courts are ordering people to do dangerous and unremunerated labor in "diversion" factory farms.

Ingram Publishing/NewscomIngram Publishing/NewscomUnder the guise of getting addicts treatment, courts are sentencing people to slave labor in the service of corporate interests.

Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR), which is supposed to provide people with addiction treatment in a rural setting, has become a court-prescribed worker pipeline for an Oklahoma chicken farm and factory, according to a piece in Reveal, the magazine of The Center for Investigative Reporting. Reveal reporters poured over court documents, tax filings, and workers' compensation claims in addition to talking to court officials, judges, and former CAAIR program participants.

CAAIR was originally launched in 2007 by food executives having trouble finding employees for low-pay, high-risk, all-hours work at chicken-processing plants. But CAAIR's claims of fulfilling a rehabilitative function are dubious. It has only one licensed counselor and no certified treatment or recovery program.

Its philosophy is that Christianity and hard work can cure addiction. Church and Bible study groups are mandatory; counseling, skills classes, and group support meetings are not.

About 280 men a year get sentenced to time with CAAIR by courts in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri. It's part of what Reveal describes a burgeoning "nationwide push to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison."

Such alternatives can be very positive step toward reducing prison populations. But they can also be pointless and silly (like Seattle's $900, 10-week course on "toxic masculinity" for men convicted of soliciting prostitution), or much worse.

"In the rush to spare people from prison, some judges are steering defendants into rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry," according to The Center for Investigative Reporting investigation.

The programs promise freedom from addiction. Instead, they've turned thousands of men and women into indentured servants.

The beneficiaries of these programs span the country, from Fortune 500 companies to factories and local businesses. The defendants work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Oklahoma, a construction firm in Alabama, a nursing home in North Carolina.

Judges use CAAIR to sentence people with more than drug and alcohol problems; one judge told 23-year-old Brad McGahey, sentenced for attempting to buy a stolen trailer, that he needed to learn a better work ethic. "Aside from daily cans of Dr Pepper, McGahey wasn't addicted to anything," and "the judge knew that," states Reveal.

A few weeks later, McGahey stood in front of a speeding conveyor belt inside a frigid poultry plant, pulling guts and stray feathers from slaughtered chickens destined for major fast food restaurants and grocery stores.

There wasn't much substance abuse treatment at CAAIR. It was mostly factory work for one of America's top poultry companies. ... And he worked for free. CAAIR pocketed the pay. "It was a slave camp," McGahey said. "I can't believe the court sent me there."

CAAIR/FacebookCAAIR/FacebookMcGahey's hand was smashed after a machine malfunction and he was told any time spent healing or doing lighter work around the camp would not count toward his one-year sentence. If he didn't like it, he could go to jail. McGahey chose jail. His hand suffered permanent functional damage. He has become dependent on hydrocodone pills to deal with his chronic pain.

At CAAIR, workers hands have become "gnarled after days spent hanging thousands of chickens from metal shackles," according to the story.

One man said he was burned with acid while hosing down a trailer. Others were maimed by machines or contracted serious bacterial infections.

[...] At some rehabs, defendants get to keep their pay. At CAAIR and many others, they do not.

Legal experts said forcing defendants to work for free might violate their constitutional rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment for convicts. That's why prison labor programs are legal. But many defendants sent to programs such as CAAIR have not yet been convicted of crimes, and some later have their cases dismissed.

"You've got to be kidding me," Noah Zatz, a professor specializing in labor law at UCLA, said when presented with Reveal's findings. "That's a very strong 13th Amendment violation case."

CAAIR administrators even keep worker's compensation money when those sentenced get hurt on the job. As CAAIR clients, workers are required to sign a form giving up their right to workers' comp. The company still files claims for injured workers and keeps the reimbursements, Reveal found.

"Chronic drug users .... are commodities, exploited by a growing world of drug and alcohol rehab operators," noted the Orange County Register recently in a piece on California's corrupt rehab industry. "Everything from the opioid epidemic and Obamacare to prison realignment and legal loopholes has created conditions in which unethical operators can flourish, using addicts to bilk insurance companies and the public out of hundreds of millions of dollars."

In February, three leaders of an Alabama juvenile diversion program recieved 20-year prison sentences for abusive treatment of minors in their care. "I can't imagine being a child and being taken from my home in the middle of the night, shackled and transported across the country and being forced to work," said Judge Charles Graddick. "Some of the testimony seemed more in line with the treatment we've heard done to inmates in Guantanamo Bay."

In North Carolina, a local news investigation into Corrective Solutions, a "misdemeanor crime diversion program based out of California," led to the state recently terminating its relationship with the program. Reveal reported on Corrective Solutions earlier this year, finding that the for-profit company was making handsome profits from court referals but providing little in return.

At CAAIR, leadership claims to provide a community service letting people work for their "treatment" instead of paying a fee. It is "supporting the opportunity to help people become productive citizens," Donny Epp, a spokesman for the company behind CAAIR, told Reveal.

Jim Lovell, CAAIR's vice president of program management, commented that "if working 40 hours a week is a slave camp, then all of America is a slave camp."

But most people who work 40 hours per week get some sort of compensation for that work, and are free to leave at will. The absence of these two things—or, put another way, having to work for no pay in a place you are not free to leave—is what forms the core of criminal laws against indentured servitude, forced labor, and human trafficking.

Rather than addressing addiction, prison overcrowding, and ballooning prison costs with work camps disguised as treatment, maybe we should question why so many petty, nonviolent offenses need to be criminalized in the first place.

Photo Credit: Ingram Publishing/Newscom

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    Jim Lovell, CAAIR's vice president of program management, commented that "if working 40 hours a week is a slave camp, then all of America is a slave camp."

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • Libertymike||

    If Jim Lovell is an asshole, what about the judge who sentenced Brad McGahey?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    More than one person can be an asshole at the same time, dude. Assholery isn't a zero-sum situation.

  • Libertymike||

    Your command of logic and reality is unassailable.

  • Gluteus Maximilian||

    Why do you turn our message board into a den of lies?

  • MJBinAL||

    Because he gets paid for each posting.

  • Cloudbuster||

    He guts chickens online.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    We're surrounded by assholes!

  • Radioactive||

    does that makes us the turds?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Makes us German.

  • Arch Stanton||

    That's just slavery with extra steps.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    A failed space mission really changes a man.

  • Tionico||

    working 40 hours/week does not fully describe the conditions for these folks, and Lovell KNOWS it. He's a liar. that outfit needs investigating. Big time.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    This is going to turn 8nto a massive class action suit. Since the defendants are multiple states, the pockets couldn't be deeper (except for Apple maybe). It almost makes me wish I was some sleazy John Edwards type class action attorney. Whoever gets this case will be a billionaire.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    But most people who work 40 hours per week get some sort of compensation for that work, and are free to leave at will.

    And we get to post on Hit'n'Run, some of us.

  • Tony||

    There shouldn't be any financial incentives for anyone in the criminal justice system except normal paychecks.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Holy shit, this might be the first time you've ever said something I completely agree with.

    Several years ago there were a couple of judges (in Pennsylvania I think) who were caught taking kickbacks from a business involved in one of these shady juvenile work programs. And if it happened once, you know it's pretty likely something similar is probably happening in other places now with these types of programs.

  • Tony||

    Yeah. You will never find a bigger hive of scum and villainy than a courthouse, and I'm not talking about the perps.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Government being scummy and villainous? You got that right.

    Cut government by 50%+ and that will solve most of these problems.

  • Radioactive||

    you aim too low, make it 85% and then flog the shit out of the remaining 15% when they don't get their phoney baloney jobs done

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I think a 70% cut would be about right. But we can try 50% and go from there.

  • Libertymike||

    Hopefully, you are not talking about the libertarian lawyers trying to do justice.

  • creech||

    But my courthouse has a Ten Commandments plaque (historically exempt per the court) and I'm sure all the people working in the court follow each and every one of those Commandments!

  • Libertymike||

    Well, presumably, most of them violate the first and second commandment each and every day.

  • Tionico||

    and I'll lay high stakes at VERY long odds the ones about stealing and bearing false witness are also regularly broken.

    Let me remind.. withholding evidence helpful to the defense is as wrong as presenting evidence that is known to be false. Both happen on a regular basis in nearly every court

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    About 280 men a year get sentenced to time with CAAIR by courts in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri. It's part of what Reveal describes a burgeoning "nationwide push to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison."

    So they were punished for breaking the law?

    lol libertarians.

  • Berserkerscientist||

    They were punished for putting a substance into their bodies, that other people don't like. lol statists.

  • Jay Dubya||

    Well said. A bit off topic to CJ's idiocy, but this article continues to confirm my suspicion that there is only one "human trafficking" ring that lives up to any of the propaganda surrounding trsfficking claims. Its the US govt.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I know you stand firmly with all the law. The law = The Law. But I'm hoping this video can at least open your eyes to evils of the law.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    This is a fine example of the court system working together with the recovery industry.

  • Rhywun||

    Not to mention the chicken industry.

  • Jay Dubya||

    Quite a pair of 'industries'. One industrys very existence is an offense to human decency & ethics. The other is a multibillion $ conglomeration of hucksters & jingoistic drug warriors that steals from the sick, poor & desperate. I forget which is which though.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Its philosophy is that Christianity and hard work can cure addiction. Church and Bible study groups are mandatory; counseling, skills classes, and group support meetings are not.

    So if you're not Christian, you get harsher punishment for the same crime?

    But people keep telling me I'm paranoid to worry about people like Roy Moore.

  • BYODB||

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a Christian organization as well where they push the idea that the only cure to alcoholism is Jesus, so this seems like more of the same for the type of Christian that would be the pastor of a so-called 'Mega Church'.

    You know you've arrived as a pastor when the vehicle you drive is nicer than 90% of your congregants. I would assume that this is the type of organization those types of churches would push in tandem with Politicians that probably go to the same church. It's the type of thing that made me leave the church many, many years ago.

  • Libertymike||

    What do you think Joel Osteen drives?

    Actually, I like watching his show because he makes me think that I am going to hit the next Powerball and three new multi-millionaire eccentric clients will come into my office this week whenever he says "a season of increase is in your future."

    His wife? BARF

  • BYODB||

    I don't even keep up with who's who in that group of assholes. They are simple to recognize once you've identified their tells, and learning their names is more of a hassle than it's worth. I'm perfectly capable of reading and interpreting scriptures and ethos on my own, I don't need some asshat living off the tithes of hard working congregants to tell me what to believe.

  • losmazeman||

    Amen!

  • CE||

    A Ferrari. It's on YouTube.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    AA is not affiliated with any religion. It is a spiritual program and if you bothered to make a three second Google search you'd see that. It only references having a "higher power as he expresses himself to the individual" also known as the second tradition.

  • BYODB||

    Correction, it's not affiliated with any particular sect of Christianity. Maybe they've updated it to be less about Jesus in particular, but historically that's been their shtick.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    Yeah, it's only been that way since they developed the 12 steps and 12 traditions...when it started over 70 years ago. But keep talking about things you know nothing about...we enjoy watching you speak from your throne of ignorance.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    AA is not affiliated with any religion. It is a spiritual program and if you bothered to make a three second Google search you'd see that. It only references having a "higher power as he expresses himself to the individual" also known as the second tradition.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    You may want to sit down for this shocking reveal, but there's actually people who don't follow any sort of personified deity at all.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    I understand that. I was only talking about it in regards to AA's guidelines. He was saying that AA was some mandatory Love Jesus party, and that's not the case. It's against their rules to endorse a religion, and I know agnostics, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and Christians who are members of that group.

  • Tionico||

    Alcoholics Anonymous don't actually RUN the local "chapters", each group takes care of itself, and AA merely provides their written programme as a guide. If you see a local outfit that is abusive, greedy, etc, that's not AA, that's the local guys making a hash of it. They do NOT"push the idea that the only cure is Jesus", though they DO know that's true.. ONLY He can save them from that pit. But no one is obligated to follow along with that.

    NONE of the pastors I know drive expensive cars..... normal cars everyone else drives, though I have seen that in the past. The true pastors, and I know quite a few of them, work elsewhere for a living, support their own families, drive whatever their standard of living can comfortably afford, and have hearts of servants. Pleas,e don't take the hot shot rich guys riding on the "tithes and offerings" of their "church members" in high style as "the norm" or even the pattern. These guys are the hirelings, which Jesus Himself condemns. I avoid them like I'd avoid Bubonic Plague......

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Your entire life is based upon a bunch of mythology cobbled together by a group of arch bishops hundreds of years ago.When I want to escape reality, I drink or do drugs. But if delusion works for you, have at it.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Go fuck yourself. If his religious beliefs bring him comfort and help guide his life in a positive way, who are you to shit on it?

    No one likes a bitchy militant atheist.

  • MJBinAL||

    Just to point this out, the conviction that there IS no higher power is every bit as much of a faith statement as any of the religions who claim there is. Neither position is provable and is achieved by faith. Only the agnostic who makes no claim at all can claim his position is not one of faith.

    You are as frustrated by the failure of others to follow YOUR religion, that of atheism, as an any follow of Jesus.

  • Tionico||

    Roy Moore would put a rapid stop to any such abuse, and seek to have those responsible for the abuse receive their right reward for their abuse. He does not take kindly to any abuse of anyone.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You can say no to this BS court laziness and go to trial.

    Many states let you choose community service options.

    There is something to be said for idle time being tough for weak minded individuals and hard work being an old fashioned intervention tool.

    As long as drugs are illegal and people demand government "help" people, government will not actually help people but will make politicians wealthier.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    You can say no to this BS court laziness and go to trial.

    Yeah, but then you get an extra harsh sentence for causing the expense of a trial and insisting on exercising your rights (but they'll say it's because you show no remorse).

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Or you could get acquitted or the DA drops the charges.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    You could get a free pony too. I wouldn't hold my breath, though.

  • Radioactive||

    oooooh ponies!!!

  • BYODB||

    DA's don't get to become an Attorney General by dropping charges against people. I think that's part of the problem, but what do I know.

  • SIV||

    You aren't supposed to lease convicts without a getting a conviction first.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Jim Lovell, CAAIR's vice president of program management, commented that "if working 40 hours a week is a slave camp, then all of America is a slave camp."

    Please tell me that this Jim Lovell isn't related to the astronaut Jim Lovell (one of my heroes).

  • Exocetmd||

    Nope. Different Jim Lovell.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Thank goodness.

  • BYODB||

    It seems cruel and unusual to have inmates risk bodily harm while waiving things like workman's comp, which I honestly didn't know you could even do. I've seen illegal aliens collect workman's comp, or at least fill out the paperwork to receive it and they said they ended up getting it, so this is especially WTF.


    I guess this is a case in point of the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but that assumes that a so-called 'Christian' organization that doesn't seem very forgiving has good intentions in the first place.


    Also, it seems that if this company can't figure out a way to automate a job that no one at all wants to do that they'll go out of business, and perhaps somebody else who can figure it out can take over. This isn't really slavery though, at the end of the day, it's more like indentured servitude. That doesn't make it right, obviously, but slavery sort of implies they never get to leave. I'll admit I'm far more outraged over modern debtors prisons than I am over this, but it sounds like they're sending people who were never even convicted which is especially outrage inducing.

  • Radioactive||

    I suppose it's a little better than turning them into soylent green...

  • Ron||

    to many chemicals in their bodies so they wouldn't be organic soylent green. but I'm willing to let buyers of soylent green choose between organic and non-organic

  • John||

    This is why anything short of full decriminalization of drugs is a complete sham. Sending people to court-ordered rehab is in some ways worse than sending them to jail and certainly no better. The rehab industry is nothing but a corrupt cargo cult. None of these programs ever help people. People either decide to stop abusing drugs or they don't. No amount of 12 step bullshit or holy rolling is going to change that.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think they can help, but it's an inherent problem with forced service work given by courts. Then it becomes different groups lobbying for enough validity to become the court designated rehab. Rather than it being something where someone decides they want to change and seek out a group that can help them specifically. Rehab is a market like any other.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Throughout history humans have managed alcohol, drugs and "addictions" of all sorts very well for the most part. Some of our most successful and celebrated historical figures were hard core addicts. In fact were it not for beer and wine, it's doubtful the race would have survived. The people who founded this country, men women and children drank beer all day long. Compulsory addiction treatment is simply the WOD lite and yet another assault on liberty.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    There's some scary shit with these programs too. I used to have this woman in her early 20's working for me. She got a DUI in on e of the neighboring counties com8ng back from drinking with s9e of her high school friends. She took a deal where she could attend alcohol counseling classes and was given a referral to this one counselor who was fairly inexpensive. At the time she was legal guardian of her sixteen year old sister, and logistics required that she bring her along to the next trial consultation. At this meeting, the counselor, a guy in his mid-thirties, told her that he if could fuck her sister (who was hot and built like a brick shithouse) he would let her out of most of the classes and cut her a deal on the price. If she refused, he threatened to get her 'lost in the system', and she would end up in jail for a long time.

    She came to me afterwards, almost hysterical. I told her to call his bluff, and cont@ct the local news affiliates with the story. I had friends at the local ABC affiliate at the time, and they were hot to interview her. We had them over to my office to do the interview right away and they got it on the 11PM news.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Turns out that this wasn't the first time he pulled this shit (big shock). Several other young women came forward. Plus it turns out he was under criminal investigation already. Apparently, he was using the people 8n his class convicted of narcotics related offenses to distribute a variety of drugs for him. He and his wife also had custody of her fifteen year old niece. While they were waiting for someone on a drug sale he started fucking the niece in his car, so the cops swooped in and arrested him.

    The case caused a review of the state's system for certifying drug counselors. Plus he went to prison for several years. Goes to show these kinds of scumbags inhabit the system at all levels.

  • egisterin||

    what did reporters pour over the documents?

  • Roger Knights||

    Beat me to it.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    It would be much simpler, cheaper, and in the long run immensely more cost-effective to just utilize the Chinese solution:
    Summary Execution of all drug sellers and users!

  • Tionico||

    Your final sentence is the key to this all.

    Yes, this IS a racket and must be stopped. Part of the problem is the $Bns spent on prosecuting victimless (that is, no "victim" has suffered any harm) "crimes", crimes of malum prohibidum, not malum in se, evil in themselves. No cars visible for a hundred miles in any direction, you can still get busted for "jaywalking" by crossing when the light is read your way, making you a "criminal". WHO was harmed?

    WHO is harmed when an adult in Arkansas smokes a joint at home, then, after binge eating for half an hour, walks into his room and goes to sleep for the rest of the night?

    Buying a trailer he knew was stolen IS a harm to someone.. IF the guy KNEW it was stolen. did he? We don't see that. Years ago I "bought" a car from a guy who had "lost the title" but would get it me in a couple weeks. I learned a lot when the city coppers came round asking me a bazillion questions about the car and its sale. I was scared, no clue what was going on. After being sure I was innocent, he told me it had been stolen, then sold to me. It had been discovered at the place where I'd parked it, coppers checked it and seized it. Returned to owner. I lost the money, not much. Cheap lesson. Now, no paperwork no trade. Ever.

  • Tionico||

    Your final sentence is the key to this all.

    Yes, this IS a racket and must be stopped. Part of the problem is the $Bns spent on prosecuting victimless (that is, no "victim" has suffered any harm) "crimes", crimes of malum prohibidum, not malum in se, evil in themselves. No cars visible for a hundred miles in any direction, you can still get busted for "jaywalking" by crossing when the light is read your way, making you a "criminal". WHO was harmed?

    WHO is harmed when an adult in Arkansas smokes a joint at home, then, after binge eating for half an hour, walks into his room and goes to sleep for the rest of the night?

    Buying a trailer he knew was stolen IS a harm to someone.. IF the guy KNEW it was stolen. did he? We don't see that. Years ago I "bought" a car from a guy who had "lost the title" but would get it me in a couple weeks. I learned a lot when the city coppers came round asking me a bazillion questions about the car and its sale. I was scared, no clue what was going on. After being sure I was innocent, he told me it had been stolen, then sold to me. It had been discovered at the place where I'd parked it, coppers checked it and seized it. Returned to owner. I lost the money, not much. Cheap lesson. Now, no paperwork no trade. Ever.

  • vek||

    This sounds like some seriously messed up shit.

    That said, if they were people that actually deserved to be punished for something (theft, assault, etc), some kind of a program like this executed humanely where they got to keep wages and such like might not be a horrible thing. They always say the lack of being able to provide for themselves legally after getting out of prison is one of the main reasons people go back to crime. If people were taught some sort of semi useful skill, while using it to pay for their crime or whatever, it might not be horrible compared to normal prison. I seem to recall reading about some programs that were helping released cons learn how to be cooks/chefs, but if it were "outpatient" style like this where they were still in the world, but required to participate it might beat some sense into them after a year or something.

    These guys running this program sound like they need a good thrashing though.

  • AnnieGramsonHill||

    All financial incentives must be removed from the prison industry. All of them. Securus technologies brags about paying over a billion in "commissions" to government officials in the last decade as compensation for maintaining their exclusive rights to extract exorbitant fees from prisoners who want to make a phone call. The US is a barbaric nation and the fact that we spend $80 billion annually maintaining a prison system is all the proof anyone needs.
    The people who run the system and profit from the system are better suited for incarceration than most of the inmates.

  • Syahdan Taginting||

    You can say no to this BS court laziness and go to trial.
    http://www.syahdantaginting.we.....-bddomino/

  • Pogue Mahon||

    "It was a slave camp," McGahey said. "I can't believe the court sent me there."

    I can.

  • Entelechy||

    Where was then- Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt when all this happened?

    Will future perps be sentenced to serve in his new model EPA?

  • Devastator||

    I don't really give a fuck about violent offenders, other than they should get proper medical care, reasonable work hours and counseling if they request it. Putting non violent offenders in these programs is ridiculous. Let the punishment suit the crime.

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