In two separate instances, national politicians have begun to question some of the primary issues surrounding private prisons; namely, security and transparency. Last week, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, rising star of the Democratic Party, began questioning the secrecy surrounding the planned ICE immigration detention center in Southwest Ranches. This would be the same facility CCA has successfully persuaded the local town council to keep mum about. Though she initially supported the proposal, the lack of clarity on the contract negotiations has caused her some alarm, and she has made it known that she expects local communities to have a say in the final word on the facility's construction.
Then, on Friday, Senator Dick Durbin (IL) addressed the sexual abuse of detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Recently revealed documents detail extensive sexual harassment and abuse of (primarily female) immigrant detainees. The immigration detention system is already notoriously devoid of oversight, so the revelation of pervasive sexual abuse should certainly raise alarm. A large and growing percentage of detained immigrants are in private prisons (more than half of them), and the government has a responsibility to protect them from sexual assault, especially since the majority have not committed any serious criminal offense. Dick Durbin says he expects "Zero tolerance" on the issue, and I hope he pursues that until it is achieved.