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The Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1994 began using low-paid inmate labor to recycle computers and other electronic gear to extract gold and other valuable materials at Marianna, about 60 miles west of Tallahassee. Three years later, the bureau began expanding the program to other facilities in New Jersey, Kansas, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas and Ohio.
"We absolutely know that they knew they were poisoning these people," she said. That includes current and former inmates. They aren't included in the lawsuits because federal law imposes stricter legal requirements on prisoners, the lawyers say. They first must go through a multistep grievance process and the law limits lawyer fees and awards.