A burgeoning NIMBY consensus?

A BURGEONING NIMBY CONSENSUS?…. This seems to be an increasingly common sentiment.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant majority leader, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would accept Guantanamo detainees in his home state as long as they were held in super-maximum prisons, where inmates are held 23 hours a day in small cells with slits for windows.

Moderator David Gregory asked: “Would you be OK with al Qaeda prisoners — those currently at Guantanamo Bay — in a prison in Illinois?”

Durbin responded: “Well, I’d be OK with it in a supermax facility, because we’ve never had an escape from one.”

Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) said the other day that if the government wants to build a supermax prison in his district, he’d be happy to have detainees sent to his area. This week, Carl Levin (D-Mich.) extended a similar offer, suggesting the construction of a new maximum-security in Michigan would help his state. (Former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) raised the specter of a “Guantanamo North” in the U.P.)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday, “Yes, we have maximum security prisons in California eminently capable of holding these people as well, and from which people — trust me — do not escape.”

This seems like a sensible response for lawmakers to make when asked if they’d accept Gitmo detainees in their state/district. If there’s a maximum-security facility in their state/district, and corrections officers are going to keep the bad guy locked up for 23 hours a day, and even attempted escapes are impossible, of course officials should be willing to accept these prisoners. Why wouldn’t they?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course, but the answer is, because some politicians have been so craven on this issue, they can have a supermax and still oppose the idea.

Perhaps it’s time to introduce a new series of questions into the debate. Maybe lawmakers should be asked, “Would you be OK with convicted serial killers being held in a maximum-security prison in your state? How about rapists? Or child molesters?”

We can probably get to a point at which some cowardly politicians will oppose any dangerous criminals in their state.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.