Immigrant detainees have to use three days worth of wages to purchase tuna or a miniature deodorant at a California immigrant detention center, Reuters reports.
Daily wages may be as little as a few cents an hour at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California, and a can of commissary tuna costs $3.25 — more than four times the price at a nearby Target, per Reuters.
Immigration activists say facilities like Adelanto intentionally limit access to essentials like toothpaste and even food in an effort to force or coerce inmates into cheap labor. The paltry wages are then redirected back into commissaries where detainees buy ramen noodles and soap. A spokesman for the Geo Group, which owns the Adelanto facility and is the nation's largest for-profit prison operator, denied these allegations, saying the meals served are approved by dieticians, the labor program is strictly voluntary and wage rates are federally mandated, Reuters reports.
Concerns about commissary in U.S. immigration lockups aren't new — a 2017 report from the U.S. Office of the Inspector General documented problems at ICE lockups, finding spoiled, moldy and expired food at some, per Reuters.
Eleven U.S. senators sent letters last November to Geo Group and CoreCivic, the nation's second-largest for-profit prison operator, calling out the "perverse profit incentive at the core of the private prison business," Reuters reports.