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Okay to Force Pre Trial Detainee to Work in Jail for Extra Food

The plaintiff said he was forced to serve without payment as a "food cart worker" under threat of discipline.

The court denies summary judgment to defendants on the plaintiff's claim of an official policy of making pre-trial detainees work, since it is difficult to believe that he would have been threatened with punishment if there were not a policy in place.

The forced work did not deny due process under Wolfish because there was no evidence of intent to punish or that the practice was excessive in relation to its legitimate purpose of getting the food served. The plaintiff got extra food but was not paid. At 397: "Compensation, even minimal compensation, is not in keeping with an intent to punish." The kinds of work plaintiff did more closely resemble "housekeeping duties" than "forced labor." The latter would include tasks that were demeaning or unduly strenuous for a particular detainee.

The plaintiff could not recover damages under the rule of Carey v. Piphus. At 399: "Courts in the Second Circuit have mirrored this reasoning through their utilization of a 'no-harm, no-foul' approach to due process violations involving administrative proceedings in prisons." The reference is to cases holding that improper deprivation of good time is not actionable if the good time is restored before the loss effects length of incarceration. The plaintiff's situation was comparable because he pleaded guilty to time served, so he received no more punishment than if he had received an immediate trial and been sentenced to the same amount of time.

The plaintiff had no Thirteenth Amendment claim; such a claim requires a showing of "compulsory labor akin to African slavery which in practical operation would tend to produce like undesireable results." (401, quoting Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328, 332 (1916)) Crediting the plaintiff's claim would trivialize slavery. See: Ford v. Nassau County Executive, 41 F.Supp.2d 392 (E.D.N.Y. 1999).

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Related legal case

Ford v. Nassau County Executive