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SPLC and Project South Seek Appeal of Decision Denying Class Certification in Forced Labor Lawsuit

ATLANTA — This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Project South and pro bono counsel, Perkins Coie LLPpetitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to overturn a federal district court decision denying class certification to individuals who are suing private prison operator CoreCivic, Inc. for forced labor violations while they were detained at the Stewart Detention Center.

The plaintiffs in the case – Barrientos v. CoreCivic, Inc. – sought class certification on behalf of approximately 32,000 detained immigrants who were forced to work for as little as $1 a day cleaning, cooking and performing maintenance duties under threat of punishment, including solitary confinement, and loss of basic necessities. These actions were part of a scheme to maximize CoreCivic’s profits, according to the lawsuit filed in 2018.

In a March 28 ruling, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia denied the plaintiffs’ request for class certification but did not rule on the merits of the case, noting that the plaintiffs and other individuals detained at the Stewart Detention Center may have individual forced labor and unjust enrichment claims.

This is the next step in our fight to seek justice for the harms the plaintiffs — and thousands of detained individuals who worked for nearly free at Stewart Detention Center – suffered,” said Meredith Stewart, attorney for the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project“CoreCivic’s practices uniformly applied to detained individuals at Stewart who faced punishment and deprivation of basic necessities, like food, if they did not perform labor for CoreCivic. These practices violate our nation’s anti-trafficking laws and no private prison company is above the law.”

“The private prison corporation CoreCivic is exploiting the forced labor of detained migrants to enrich itself. It must be stopped,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director at Project South

Read more about the case and view other filings here

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About the Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit

Project South is a social justice organization based in Atlanta, Georgia. Our mission is to cultivate strong social movements in the South powerful enough to contend with some of the most pressing and complicated social, economic, and political problems we face today. The Legal & Advocacy department of Project South connects movement lawyers with grassroots organizations and campaigns focusing on dismantling state repression and protecting immigrants’ rights and Muslim communities. Our work is also focused on connecting with and supporting social justice movements in the Global South. Learn more at Follow Project South on social media: @ProjectSouth on Twitter, ProjectSouthATL on Facebook, and projectsouthatl on Instagram.