Lawsuit: Oklahoma court-diversion program is exploitative

Markets Associated Press

Three people have filed a class-action lawsuit against an Oklahoma-based addiction recovery program, saying it exploited them and other participants by forcing them to decide between going to prison or working for free at a poultry processing plant.

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The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery and the Arkansas-based plant operator, Simmons Foods, comes a week after nonprofit news outlet Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting published a story exposing the questionable practices of some court-ordered diversion programs, including CAAIR.

The lawsuit contends that participants weren't told they'd have to work unpaid jobs while going through the recovery program. It says CAAIR placed participants at the Simmons plant and kept compensation they should have received, including workers' compensation payments CAAIR filed on participants' behalf.

The plaintiffs say the only compensation they received were "daily bologna sandwiches and a bunk-bed in a cramped dorm room."

CAAIR CEO Janet Wilkerson had no immediate comment on the lawsuit. A spokesman for Simmons, Donny Epp, says the company will defend itself in court.