Fact check: Metal cages in Caruthers, California, are not “proof of human trafficking”

Posts circulated on social media make the claim that a number of “human cages” found in Caruthers, California are being used to hold human trafficking victims captive, in reference to the unfounded claims made by the conspiracy group QAnon, which believes that President Donald Trump is secretly fighting a cabal of child-sex predators including prominent Democrats. This claim is false. The cages were formerly used by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) and are being recycled by a local business.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples of the claim are visible here and here .

On August 15, video footage showing metal cages stored outdoors appeared online ( here and here ). In the video, two unidentified men can be heard exclaiming that the cages appear to have toilets, and that they “are for people”.

On social media, users have circulated this footage, some including links to a story on the website USSANEWS, claiming that the metal cages are for holding human trafficking victims, or individuals who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 ( here ).

On August 18, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office posted a statement on Facebook that the office had received numerous reports of these sightings.

“Detectives were able to identify the location of the cages and determined they were formerly used by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR),” the statement said, “to provide a safe and secure area for protective custody inmates to participate in outdoor activities”.

The statement added that the metal holding cells had been “retired” and acquired by a local metal recycling business, to be “recycled” or “repurposed by local area farmers to protect agricultural supplies and pumps from theft”. ( here ).

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed in the statement that the holding cells had no connection to human trafficking activity, as implied in posts on social media.

The press secretary for the CDCR confirmed to Reuters via email that the “outdoor recreation spaces” seen in the footage are “strictly used for our maximum-security population”.

A report by SFGate showing conditions among death row prisoners in San Quentin, California’s infamous prison, show secure cells very similar to the “cages” in the claims ( here ). CDRC told Reuters the cells pictured were not the ones in these claims, but rather were used in maximum security prisons like Pelican Bay.


False. Metal cages in Caruthers, California, were formerly holding cells and are not proof of a human trafficking operation.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here