Federal correctional officers applaud Congress for passing the bipartisan sentencing and prison reform bill that will reduce the federal prison population while improving safety for officers, inmates, and those outside the prison walls.
The First Step Act passed the Senate and House Dec. 18 and Dec. 20 respectively. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law December 21, 2018.
The federal correctional officers, represented by our union, fully support the criminal justice reform bill as amended by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin to make prisons safer.
“Federal correctional workers will be on the front lines implementing the First Step Act, and we truly appreciate your collaboration with us to fine tune the bill into something we are proud to support,” said Eric Young, president of AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals, in a Dec. 13 letter to Sens. Grassley and Durbin.
The Council of Prison Locals has fought for meaningful criminal justice and sentencing reform for the last five years.
The council has been working towards reform that will reduce the number of inmates that are in federal prisons, reform the system that keeps certain types of low-level, non-violent offenders in prison longer, and put more resources into programming that has been proven to reduce recidivism rates. The council is pleased to see that the revised version of the First Step Act meets all these important standards.
Changes to the legislation that garnered the union’s endorsement include:
· Requiring that each facility operated by BOP install lockers outside the secure perimeter for correctional officers to store personal firearms carried to and from work;
· Expanding the so-called safety valve to give judges more discretion in administering sentences, while also adding assaults against federal employees to the list of offenses that are ineligible for reduced sentences;
· Allowing the Attorney General to use BOP’s existing risk and needs assessment tools in developing a new recidivism risk assessment system, while also increasing the budget to implement the system to $75 million a year for five years, up from the $50 million included in the House-passed version of the bill.
“Three federal correctional officers have been killed in the line of duty in the last decade, including two in the last five years,” Young said. “Congress must do everything in its power protect the federal correctional workers who protect communities across America and ensure that a murder like those that took the lives of Jose Rivera, Eric Williams and Osvaldo never happens again.”
The council represents 33,000 federal correctional workers at 122 federal prisons operated by BOP.
The AFL-CIO, a federation of 55 national and international unions including AFGE, recently sent a letter to senators asking them to pass the bill.