ACLU chapters in Oklahoma and Arkansas have joined the review of an Oklahoma agency that has put drug court defendants to work at poultry companies in conditions described in an investigative report as virtual slave labor.
The workers, dozens of whom work with Simmons Food of Arkansas, work in return for food and lodging and putative rehabilitation. Money paid by the poultry company goes to the non-profit, Christian Alcoholics and Addicts in Recovery.
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Two of the workers have already filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma and the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission says it is looking into allegations that benefits paid for injured workers went to
Said Brady Henderson, Legal Director, ACLU of Oklahoma:
“CAAIR is so pale an imitation of actual rehabilitation that it cannot be considered rehabilitation at all. By sentencing people with addiction to unpaid labor, courts are effectively conscripting the people they claim to be helping into indentured servitude. This practice is a clear violation of multiple laws, is likely unconstitutional, and is certainly morally reprehensible. The ACLU is undertaking a serious investigation into these crimes and encourages any victims of this unlawful scheme to contact us immediately.”
Said Holly Dickson, Legal Director, ACLU of Arkansas:
“Those sentenced to CAAIR expecting reputable treatment were sold a false bill of goods. Instead of addiction treatment, victims of this and similar schemes found themselves forced to work with little to no pay in incredibly dangerous and inhumane conditions under threat of going to prison. This system allows corporations to profit on the backs of people our government claims to help. As we investigate this, it is important to consider how much the governments of Oklahoma and Arkansas knew about these abuses, and that they take steps to ensure no other people will fall prey to this scheme. ”
The ACLU asked any who have been sentenced to or affected by similar programs to get in touch with an ACLU affiliate in the state in which they were sentenced.