Alabama Is Being Sued by Prisoners for Forced Labor

Alabama Is Being Sued by Prisoners for Forced Labor

( – On December 12, according to a federal court complaint, a group of ex- and present-day inmates in Alabama filed a lawsuit claiming that the work policies in the state’s prisons amounted to a contemporary version of slavery.

Additionally, according to their complaint, the state’s jail system has cruel circumstances that make working there essentially coercive. The Department of Justice sued the state in 2020 for neglecting to provide hygienic and safe conditions for inmates.

Ten women and men who worked while in Alabama’s jails are among the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs claim that the system caught them in a situation where prisoners are forced to work for little or no wages, often benefiting multiple government agencies and private companies.

The prominent figures being sued include the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles, the department of transportation and prisons, Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey, and Attorney General of Alabama Steve Marshall. A number of private employers included in the case are franchisees of well-known businesses that have employed convicts under work-release programs, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s.

B.J. Chisholm, one of the plaintiffs’ principal attorneys, said that everyone involved in this venture hopes to gain financially from it. According to the complaint, Alabama benefited economically from jail labor to the tune of over $450 million in 2023 alone.

In total, more than twenty-one defendants are charged with violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, breaking the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a federal law that outlaws forced labor, and the state constitution of Alabama, which was amended in November of last year to prohibit slavery and forced labor in all its forms.

The inmates in Alabama, along with three labor unions and a nonprofit organization that keeps an eye on prison conditions, assert that they face the possibility of physical punishment, solitary confinement, starvation, and the forfeiture of credits that could be applied toward a shorter prison sentence if they refuse to work.

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