If you were facing time in prison and had the option of a year stay in a substance abuse recovery program instead, most would choose the latter, right? Not according to the hundreds of people who have graduated from the Christian Alcoholics and Addicts in Recovery group out of Oklahoma, a place that many have nicknamed, “The Chicken Farm”
In a shocking discovery that was presented to the Tulsa Federal Court in October, CAAIR is being charged with multiple counts of human trafficking and labor law violations. The program is well known in the area, and many people thought it was a great alternative to serving time in prison. However, with recent developments of the illegal activity and basically forced slave labor, many people are changing their tunes about the program.
What is CAAIR?
What has been advertised as a substance abuse and alcohol treatment program, is actually a work camp program for the company Simmons Foods. It was started in 2007 by chicken company execs who were struggling to find workers.
- They are a chicken distribution company that works with names like Wal Mart, KFC, Popeyes, PetSmart, and Rachel Ray’s Nutrish brand of dog food.
- Annually, the Simmons company brings in $1.4 billion
- The group presents itself as a Christian Rehab Center, and force the participants to work FOR FREE in these factories
- They provide little to no substance abuse education or 12 step program work.
- Previous graduates state they were constantly threatened with incarceration if they did not perform well, were injured on the job or were sick.
- In seven years, the program brought in $11 million in revenue, according to tax filings.
- Despite it being a drug and alcohol program, they only employ one certified counselor, no trained medical staff, and prohibits psychiatric medicine – they frequently have clients who experience seizures, extreme withdrawal symptoms, and mental health crises.
Three previous participants came forward with the lawsuit with the intention of making it a class-action lawsuit. Over 1000 people have gone through the program since 2007, and these men, Brad McGahey, Arthur Copeland, and Brandon Spurgin, provide only a small glimpse into some of the illegal activity that occurred.
After living a hard life in a local town, Brad barely graduated from High School. He was arrested originally for buying a stolen horse trailer. When he fell behind on his court payments and missed a meeting with his probation officer, he was brought back into court in Tulsa to be given his fate.
Father of two and reportedly never using or abusing drugs, he had heard about Christian Alcoholics and Addicts in Recovery before, as many called it “The Chicken Farm”. People would go for one year, work, and then get out and go back into the world without a charge over their heads. He assumed it sounded much better than prison.
While on the job one day, Brad had one of his severely crushed in a conveyer belt while he attempted to assist a fellow co-worker who was injured.
Apparently, a doctor gave him a splint and ordered him not to work, but the CAAIR administration called him lazy, accused him of hurting himself on purpose, and informed him, “You can either work or you go to prison.” McGahey is now fully addicted to painkillers.
With the overwhelming numbers of people who are incarcerated in this country, judges across the nation have begun to send more and more non-violent offenders to rehabs and diversion facilities rather than prison.
However, in a similar fashion to what the privatized prison system is, these rehabs have quickly become nothing more than work camps for private industries ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local businesses.
At CAAIR, the men and women are put to work in a chicken factory, where the hours are long, the conditions are deplorable, and the pay is all kept by the owners of CAAIR.
Many of the graduates have come forward about the conditions they met while working in the Simmon’s factories:
- Brandon Spurgin:
- 2014: A metal door crashed down on his head, resulting in a damaged spine and chronic pain.
- CAAIR reportedly filed for workers comp for Mr. Spurgin, but illegally kept the $4,500 he received in insurance payments.
- He still suffers from the back pain, received nothing from his workers compensation, and can no longer hold a full-time job.
- Donald Basford:
- Sent to CAAIR in 2014 despite a history of mental disorders
- Was denied any of his psychiatric medications, repeatedly told CAAIR staff that he was “losing it”
- Eventually ran away and was found dead in his car, no drugs in his system, a cause of death remains unknown.
- Bradley Schott:
- Graduated in 2014
- “I have to say, CAAIr was the hardest thing to do in my life. I went to basic training at 16 and Army Ranger school and it wasn’t as hard as CAAIR, mentally or physically”
Despite resounding evidence and testimony, CAAIR is still raking in the big bucks. In Oklahoma drug court, it is the law that defendants who are going to be sent to rehabilitation programs MUST be sent to ones that are certified by trained counselors and state oversight. CAAIR is completely uncertified and is not regulated by any state agencies.
The loophole here that they are using the state of Oklahoma’s lack of certified and qualified substance abuse treatment centers. According to Judge Thomas Landrith of Pontotoc County, “There’s never a wait list for CAAIR, and it costs the court and state nothing.” Apparently, the courts are allowed to send people to use uncertified programs, as long as it’s not for substance abuse treatment.
The three men who have come forward with lawsuits are simply asking for unpaid wages and other medical damages that occurred during their stay at CAAIR. They have also filed a court order in the hopes to stop any further illegal conduct by CAAIR as well as Simmons Foods.