Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery is a "diversion program" where drug addicts convicted of crimes can be sent to get help, but an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that CAAIR is really in the business of supplying low-cost workers to factories, where they are worked seven days/week on threat of being returned to prison, and where workers who are maimed on the job are sent to prison and not given worker's compensation — all for no pay at all.
It amounted to indentured servitude, and even by the standards of prison labor, the work was grueling and dangerous. CAAIR collected paychecks for the workers, but the workers never saw a dime. What's more, the workers had all been diverted to CAAIR because they were struggling with drug dependency, and the "therapy" they received for their health problems was "work and prayer."
CAAIR is not the only program of its kind; across America, drug-dependent people who are enmeshed in the criminal justice system are being turned into forced labor forces for some of the country's biggest corporations, such as Coca-Cola and Simmons Food (who supply KFC, PetSmart, Walmart and Popeye's).
Inside CAAIR's dormitories, Bible verses and Simmons Foods posters line the walls. Participants usually sleep six to a room, crammed onto wooden bunk beds. They attend church services in a common room down the hall, decorated with quilts and wooden crosses.
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."
The men also perform free labor for CAAIR's founders, family and friends. A group of men said they helped remodel the Wilkersons' master bedroom. Another said he helped one of their daughters pack boxes and move. Still others worked on an egg farm owned by the Wilkersons' other daughter. The program told the courts that it was community service, according to employees.
All Work No Pay [Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter/Reveal]