Sen. Rubio presses U.S. attorney general to investigate sexual abuse of prisoners

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nearly nine months after he demanded an investigation into allegations about sexual abuse of female inmates at a federal prison in Central Florida, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday scolded Attorney General William Barr for failing to provide a “substantive response” to the request.

Rubio told Barr in a letter Friday that “the Department of Justice has not sufficiently responded to inquiries” the senator made in December regarding sexual abuse allegations at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County.

“The delay in meaningfully responding to congressional oversight had eroded trust in the BOP (Bureau of Prisons), and has potentially endangered its staff, and the inmates in their care,” Rubio wrote.

In December, Rubio urged Barr to investigate allegations of systemic sexual abuse of female inmates by male staff at the federal facility.

The allegations were laid out in a Miami Herald investigation, which found the inmates were subjected to retaliatory punishment when they filed complaints.

“My office has not received a substantive response, or any indication that these abhorrent allegations were investigated,” Rubio wrote to Barr on Friday.

Rubio said he followed up on his December request in April, urging Barr to investigate Coleman as part of a Department of Justice task force created in March to address misconduct by federal prison workers.

“Again, my office has not received a substantive response to this inquiry, and to date, the DOJ has not formed this task force or announced the facilities where oversight will be directed,” Rubio wrote Friday.

The Florida senator also complained about how the federal prison has handled the coronavirus pandemic.

Three Coleman inmates have died from COVID-19 and more than 245 prisoners and 50 employees are infected with the disease, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

Rubio said his office has received “numerous complaints” that staff at the federal women’s prison in Florida are not wearing face masks and that managers at the facility may have ordered employees to return to work despite testing positive for the coronavirus, in violation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“I have already requested the BOP take immediate action to address this allegation, and I look forward to the outcome of this investigation,” Rubio wrote.