ACLU of Oklahoma Sues Over Forced Labor, Human Trafficking in Court-Mandated “Rehab” Program

ACLU of Oklahoma Sues Over Forced Labor, Human Trafficking in Court-Mandated “Rehab” Program

TAHLEQUAH, OK– The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma filed suit today against the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program (D.A.R.P., Inc. or D.A.R.P.) for a number of egregious abuses, including human trafficking and labor violations. The suit, filed on behalf of past participants at the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program facilities in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and Decatur, Arkansas, alleges the organization has been running an unpaid labor camp disguised as a rehabilitation center for the last decade.

“At the time, going to D.A.R.P. seemed like my only option,” said Shane Norrid, a former Drug Alcohol Recovery Program participant and plaintiff in the ACLU of Oklahoma’s suit. “I was told I would avoid prison and that I would get treatment to help change my life, but I saw almost as soon as I got there that this program wasn’t what I expected treatment to be. The Drug Alcohol Recovery Program did not give me the help I needed.”

The ACLU filed a class action on behalf of seven plaintiffs and others like them, each with their own harrowing stories of forced, unpaid labor, dangerous working conditions, cruel treatment, and unsanitary living conditions while participating in the Drug Alcohol Recovery Program. The plaintiffs were lead to believe their time in the program would be focused on healing and addiction recovery. Instead, these plaintiffs were forced into a human trafficking scheme and remained under threat of prison sentences if they did not complete the program by providing hundreds or thousands of hours of unpaid labor to the Drug Alcohol Recovery Program and private corporations, doing such work as welding, plastic product manufacturing, and chicken processing. Many of these businesses, who knowingly benefited from forced labor trafficking, are also named as defendants in the suit, including Hendren Plastics, Inc., R&R Engineering Co., Inc., Simmons Foods, Inc., and Western Alliance, Inc. (formerly Jer-Co Industries, Inc.).

Individuals at both facilities were fed one bologna sandwich for lunch each day, and often, that’s all they had to eat for an entire 12 hour shift doing manual labor. Drug Alcohol Recovery Program participants at the Tahlequah facility were fed spoiled or otherwise unmarketable chicken from the program’s processing plant five nights per week. At each facility, men lived in cramped quarters with a bed bug infestation that caused bleeding wounds.

“Oklahomans dealing with addiction deserve quality treatment, but instead, victims of this scheme found themselves forced to work without pay and live in inhumane conditions,” said Brady Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director. “It is absolutely unacceptable to take advantage of people in such a vulnerable position, and we hope with our stand today, we can help to end these abuses before more people are caught up in this or similar scams.”

While at the Drug Alcohol Recovery Program, participants were subject to long days of labor for the program and private corporations. All of their pay was turned over to the Drug Alcohol Recovery Program or its president, Raymond Jones. Participants were unable to file taxes or claim workers compensation or unemployment benefits for their time in the program.

Instead of the help with addiction recovery they expected or needed, the Drug Alcohol Recovery Program participants were provided little to no services that could be considered legitimate addiction treatment. Participants in Tahlequah went to one AA meeting per week in Hulbert, Oklahoma. Participants at the Decatur facility held their own “in-house” meetings, where the participants sat in a room together and read from a Twelve Step book, sometimes after a 10-12 hour work day.

“Alternatives to incarceration are an important component to battling our mass incarceration crisis,” said Henderson. “But profiteering schemes like D.A.R.P. are not the answer. Without proper oversight, medically qualified counselors and meaningful services, incarceration alternatives like this one are ripe for abuse.”

This suit was filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. Click here to see the complaint complaint for more information.

 

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