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.
There’s little drug rehabilitation going on at these labor camps. Some of the companies that utilize the slave labor are so dependent on it that they’d go under without it. Some of the industries these men are forced to work in are notoriously dangerous. When they’re injured, the companies file workers compensation claims – and keep the money for themselves, even though the workers are typically not employees but clients.
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