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For years, thousands of detainees awaiting their trials in immigration court were paid $1 a day to mop, scrub toilets, do laundry, and myriad other jobs at the Washington state facility where they were being held. During that time, GEO Group, the company contracted with the government to run the facility, Northwest ICE Processing Center, was posting millions of dollars in profits.
On Nov. 2, that balance of power shifted. In an extraordinary decision, a federal jury in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ordered GEO Group to provide $17.3 million in backpay to more than 10,000 former and current detainees, some of whom had performed the virtually-unpaid labor as far back as 2005.