AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals has been working for years to reform harsh sentencing laws like mandatory minimums and curb the resulting rampant overcrowding of prisons, which strains budgets and endangers both officers and inmates. On July 16, we gained a powerful ally in the fight when President Obama called for ending mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenders during a tour of FCI El Reno in Oklahoma.
Obama’s visit was the first time a sitting president had toured a federal correctional facility. Council President Eric Young, Council South Central Regional Vice President Clifton Buchanan, and members of AFGE Local 171 were all present for the occasion.
“Packing too many inmates into one facility makes conditions more dangerous for both officers and inmates,” Young said. “We thank the president for his support in addressing the overcrowding crisis, and we look forward to working with the administration in identifying other ways we can make our federal prisons safer.”
The council is an adamant supporter of legislation introduced by Sen. Durbin and Rep. Raul Labrador that would reform mandatory minimum sentencing. The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 was the first bill endorsed by the council. In 2013 the union launched the Safe Prisons Project, a grassroots organizing campaign to promote policies that reduce overcrowding and underfunding while increasing officer safety. With the president’s comments, AFGE and the council are redoubling efforts to make these reforms a reality.