WASHINGTON, D.C.—The head of the council that represents federal prison officers today expressed concerns about the prisoner rehabilitation proposal President Bush outlined in his State of the Union message Tuesday. Philip W. Glover, president of AFGE’s National Council of Prison Locals, says instead of creating new plans Bush should press Congress to stop plans to put an end to–UNICOR, a program created in 1934 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“It’s all well and good for the president to call for expanded job training and placement programs for prisoners,” Glover contends, “but it’s hard not to wonder why he’s so eager to spend $300 million of the taxpayers’ money for new initiatives while standing by as Congress pulls the rug out from under a proven and self-supporting prison industries program—one that provides inmates with hands-on skills and enhances the safety of our federal prisons. Further this program has a proven track record with reducing recidivism.”
Before adjourning for the holiday recess, the House rescinded federal contracting preferences for Federal Prisons Industries. The legislation awaits action by the Senate.
Under the House plan, UNICOR products would no longer have to be purchased by federal agencies resulting in the potential closure of several prison industry sites and making idle thousands of inmates. “Because of that,” Glover explains, “the legislation passed by the House (H.R. 1829) threatens a program that has served the interests of the American public for some 70 years.”
"The best time for job training and rehabilitation is before a prisoner is released—not upon release, as in the president’s plan,” Glover says. “Within high-security prisons, idle hands truly are the devil’s tools. Inmates occupied with skills-building work are less likely to commit crimes behind bars and, as the president acknowledged, prisoners with job skills are less likely to commit crimes once they are released.”
John Gage president of the American Federation of Government Employees says he feels the Bush prison plan is politically motivated. “Through this effort, the president throws a $300 million bone to the right-wing nonprofit groups whose votes Bush needs in 2004,” said Gage.
The American Federation of Government Employees is the nation’s largest union representing some 600,000 federal workers nationwide.