Ken’s Comments:

 

This abomination goes on because slavery is allowed as punishment for convicts by the 13th Amendment. Combine that with the massive indifference to all the abuses, nobody being held accountable for wrongdoing, and it is the “perfect storm” for injuries and death. 

Several of my articles and I are referenced in Judge Posner’s latest book, Improving the Federal Judiciary – Second Edition – Staff Attorney Program, The Plight of the Pro Se’s, and the Televising of Oral Arguments. While it is quite flattering to have the attention of such a renowned legal scholar, the important point is that this brings important information to many, many more people. The book is available from Amazon for only $18.00 … a great gift any time of year!

UPDATE of 12/23/17:

Several of my articles and I are referenced in Judge Posner’s latest book, Improving the Federal Judiciary – Second Edition – Staff Attorney Program, The Plight of the Pro Se’s, and the Televising of Oral Arguments. While it is quite flattering to have the attention of such a renowned legal scholar, the important point is that this brings important information to many, many more people. The book is available from Amazon for only $18.00 … a great gift any time of year!

Good to be Recognized – and Good for the Public!

 

Excerpts from the Article:

 

The worst day of Brad McGahey’s life was the day a judge decided to spare him from prison. McGahey was 23 with dreams of making it big in rodeo, maybe starring in his own reality TV show. With a 1.5 GPA, he’d barely graduated from high school. He had two kids and mounting child support debt. Then he got busted for buying a stolen horse trailer, fell behind on court fines and blew off his probation officer.

Standing in a tiny wood-paneled courtroom in rural Oklahoma in 2010, he faced one year in state prison. The judge had another plan.

“You need to learn a work ethic,” the judge told him. “I’m sending you to CAAIR.” McGahey had heard of Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery. People called it “the Chicken Farm,” a rural retreat where defendants stayed for a year, got addiction treatment and learned to live more productive lives. Most were sent there by courts from across Oklahoma and neighboring states, part of the nationwide push to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison.

Aside from daily cans of Dr Pepper, McGahey wasn’t addicted to anything. The judge knew that. But the Chicken Farm sounded better than prison.

A few weeks later, McGahey stood in front of a speeding conveyor belt inside a frigid poultry plant, pulling guts and stray feathers from slaughtered chickens destined for major fast food restaurants and grocery stores.

There wasn’t much substance abuse treatment at CAAIR. It was mostly factory work for one of America’s top poultry companies. If McGahey got hurt or worked too slowly, his bosses threatened him with prison.

And he worked for free. CAAIR pocketed the pay. “It was a slave camp,” McGahey said. “I can’t believe the court sent me there.”

Soon, it would get worse.

Across the country, judges increasingly are sending defendants to rehab instead of prison or jail. These diversion courts have become the bedrock of criminal justice reform, aiming to transform lives and ease overcrowded prisons. But in the rush to spare people from prison, some judges are steering defendants into rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

The programs promise freedom from addiction. Instead, they’ve turned thousands of men and women into indentured servants.

The beneficiaries of these programs span the country, from Fortune 500 companies to factories and local businesses. The defendants work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Oklahoma, a construction firm in Alabama, a nursing home in North Carolina.

Perhaps no rehab better exemplifies this allegiance to big business than CAAIR. It was started in 2007 by chicken company executives struggling to find workers. By forming a Christian rehab, they could supply plants with a cheap and captive labor force while helping men overcome their addictions.

At CAAIR, about 200 men live on a sprawling, grassy compound in northeastern Oklahoma, and most work full time at Simmons Foods Inc., a company with annual revenue of $1.4 billion. They slaughter and process chickens for some of America’s largest retailers and restaurants, including Walmart, KFC and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. They also make pet food for PetSmart and Rachael Ray’s Nutrish brand.

 

Chicken processing plants are notoriously dangerous and understaffed. The hours are long, the pay is low and the conditions are brutal.

Men in the CAAIR program said their hands became gnarled after days spent hanging thousands of chickens from metal shackles. One man said he was burned with acid while hosing down a trailer. Others were maimed by machines or contracted serious bacterial infections.

Those who were hurt and could no longer work often were kicked out of CAAIR and sent to prison, court records show. Most men worked through the pain, fearing the same fate.

“They work you to death. They work you every single day,” said Nate Turner, who graduated from CAAIR in 2015. “It’s a work camp. They know people are desperate to get out of jail, and they’ll do whatever they can do to stay out of prison.”

To unearth this story, Reveal interviewed scores of former participants and employees, court officials and judges and reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents, tax filings and workers’ compensation records.

At some rehabs, defendants get to keep their pay. At CAAIR and many others, they do not.

 

Legal experts said forcing defendants to work for free might violate their constitutional rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment for convicts. That’s why prison labor programs are legal. But many defendants sent to programs such as CAAIR have not yet been convicted of crimes, and some later have their cases dismissed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Noah Zatz, a professor specializing in labor law at UCLA, said when presented with Reveal’s findings. “That’s a very strong 13th Amendment violation case.”

CAAIR has become indispensable to the criminal justice system, even though judges appear to be violating Oklahoma’s drug court law by using it in some cases, according to the law’s authors.

Drug courts in Oklahoma are required to send defendants for treatment at certified programs with trained counselors and state oversight. CAAIR is uncertified. Only one of its three counselors is licensed, and no state agency regulates it.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma now is considering legal action in response to Reveal’s reporting.

About 280 men are sent to CAAIR each year by courts throughout Oklahoma, as well as Arkansas, Texas and Missouri. Instead of paychecks, the men get bunk beds, meals and Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. If there’s time between work shifts, they can meet with a counselor or attend classes on anger management and parenting. Weekly Bible study is mandatory. For the first four months, so is church. Most days revolve around the work.

 

 

Wilkerson vowed to make her program better. She and her partners hired away one of Jones’ top managers and used men from his program to build their first dormitory. They worked for free, as community service. Then she stopped paying Jones and they parted ways.

By 2010, hundreds of men poured into CAAIR from courts across Oklahoma. So did the money, allowing the Wilkersons – Janet as CEO and her husband, Don, as vice president of operations – to draw combined salaries of $168,000 a year, nearly four times the median household income in their area.

 

Growing up in the country, McGahey wasn’t bothered by the sight of dead animals. He’d gutted catfish and skinned deer all his life. But the first time he stepped into the Simmons plant, the stench of chicken blood and feces was overpowering. “I almost threw up,” he remembered. On May 27, 2010, three months into his time at CAAIR, something went wrong.

A machine dumped a mountain of parts onto the conveyor belt, causing chicken to pile up faster than he and his co-worker could sort it. As they plunged their hands into the heap of cold parts, McGahey remembers hearing a scream. His co-worker’s rubber glove was caught in the conveyor belt.

McGahey grabbed the woman’s arm, wresting her hand free. But the machine snagged his own hand. In a matter of seconds, McGahey’s wrist was jerked backward, lodged in the seams of the conveyor belt as it hurtled toward a narrow stainless steel chute overhead. Someone yanked the emergency kill cord, which should have stopped the machine, McGahey recalled. But it raced upward, dragging him along with it. He felt a flash of panic. Then an excruciating crunch.

Medical notes later would say McGahey suffered a “severe crush injury.” The machine smashed his hand, breaking several bones and nearly severing a tendon in his wrist. When he finally yanked his wrist free, his hand was bent completely backward. The pain was so bad that he nearly fainted.

 

 

Most men sent to CAAIR are addicted to alcohol, meth, heroin or pain pills. They are usually young, white and can’t afford stays in private rehab programs.

 

During the one-year program, the men can’t have cellphones or money. If they relapse or break the rules, they can be kicked out or punished with extra time. In 2014, CAAIR reported that about 1 in 4 men completed the program.

Former employees said work takes priority over everything. If counseling or classes interfered with the job, the decision was clear. “It’s work,” said Aaron Snyder, who participated in the program and later worked as a dorm manager. “You’re going to work.”

 

 

 

No drug court judge has ever been disciplined for using uncertified programs, according to the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints.

 

 

 

CAAIR is now planning a fourth dormitory. It’s supposed to be the biggest yet.

 

 

Read the Whole Story

They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants