Democratic presidential candidates, seizing on anger over the mistreatment of immigrants at privately run detention centers, are pushing to outlaw private prisons altogether, moving the issue to prominence in the 2020 race, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The demand for a ban on private lockups is becoming a potent campaign issue, as the private prison industry flourishes under a Trump administration eager to provide it with inmates and lucrative federal contracts. As the population housed in private lockups grows, a stream of government investigations and media reports has documented abuses and called into question whether they are saving taxpayers money.
On Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts rolled out a detailed critique of the facilities as well as her blueprint for getting rid of them. She joined other candidates who are vowing to phase out all private immigrant detention centers and prisons operated for the federal government, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “The companies running prisons and detention centers regularly sacrifice safety to boost their bottom line,” Warren wrote in a Medium post published Friday. The focus on the facilities comes as a federal report this month detailed squalid conditions and civil rights concerns at three privately run immigrant detention centers. Among them is the facility at Adelanto, in San Bernardino County, where an investigation last year revealed significant health and safety risks, including nooses in detainee cells. The report this month found “improper and overly restrictive segregation, and inadequate detainee medical care.” Private prisons hold about 12 percent of federal inmates, or 18,100 people. In addition to closing those prisons, Warren would effectively ban scores of private prisons in state systems by denying federal public safety funds to states that use them. Some 128,000 inmates were housed in state private prisons in 2016.