Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) today sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) calling for an investigation into conditions at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, a privately-owned facility that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The senators’ letter comes days after Vice News reported that a captain at the facility, which is owned by CoreCivic, was active on a neo-Nazi website and expressed interest in starting a white supremacist group. That employee has been placed on administrative leave. 

The incident is the latest in a series of events that raise concerns about the safety of detainees and employees at the facility. “It is imperative that any private company contracted with the federal government to operate a detention facility be held to the highest standards of care and management. It is also critical that transparency and oversight not be hindered because the facility is operated by a private entity through a federal contract,” the senators wrote.

“The federal government has an obligation to ensure that individuals in its care, whether in a federally- or privately-operated facility, are subject to safe and healthy environments,” they continued. Full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Inspector General Cuffari: We write today to request that your office investigate conditions at the Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, Nevada. This detention facility is operated by CoreCivic through contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and the U.S. Marshals Service. A number of reports have raised concerns regarding unsafe conditions at the facility for both detainees and employees, as well as potential violations of CoreCivic’s federal contracts. Recent concerning incidents, including an inmate’s murder and an employee’s on-site suicide, have shown that CoreCivic is not able to guarantee the safety of detainees within this facility and challenge the company’s ability to protect the health of its own employees. 

Furthermore, concerns have been raised in recent days regarding the standards to which the company holds its employees after it was revealed that a captain at the Nevada Southern Detention Center was active on a Neo-Nazi website. 

In fact, as recently as June 2017, the employee publicly expressed his intent to establish a white nationalist chapter in his community. With overwhelming evidence that hate crimes are on the rise in the United States, it is critical for our government to take concrete steps to combat them. The Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) use of private detention centers also raises a number of questions that require further discussion and investigation. It is imperative that any private company contracted with the federal government to operate a detention facility be held to the highest standards of care and management. It is also critical that transparency and oversight not be hindered because the facility is operated by a private entity through a federal contract. To better understand ICE’s efforts to conduct adequate management and oversight of its contractors and to ensure vulnerable immigrants are protected while in the custody of DHS or DHS contractors, we request that your office investigate staffing and conditions at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, including addressing the following concerns:1.     The extent to which the facility complies with federally-required standards for the health and safety of detainees.2.     The policies and procedures CoreCivic has in place regarding the following issues, and the extent to which the Pahrump facility has complied with such policies and procedures:a.      Employee safetyb.     Employee hiring and screeningc.      Employee misconduct3.     Any actions taken by the facility to improve health, safety, and other standards in the past five years.4.     The extent to which ICE oversees and ensures CoreCivic’s compliance with its obligations under its federal contract.5.     Whether it is standard practice for DHS to review the hiring policies of contractors who manage ICE detention facilities.6.     Whether DHS requested information from CoreCivic related to the company’s nondiscrimination, anti-harassment, and/or anti-retaliation policies to ensure that detainees in its custody are not subjected to discrimination by CoreCivic employees.7.     Whether DHS provides training and/or oversight to contractors regarding hiring, non-discrimination, anti-harassment, and/or anti-retaliation practices or requires its contractors to provide such training to its employees. The federal government has an obligation to ensure that individuals in its care, whether in a federally- or privately-operated facility, are subject to safe and healthy environments. We appreciate your response to these concerns.