WASHINGTON, D.C.— Philip W. Glover, president of the National Council of Prison Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today urged Congress to reject legislation that would seriously undermine the work and skills-building programs available to inmates in federal prisons. The bill, S. 346, would rescind federal contracting preferences for Federal Prisons Industries – UNICOR, a program created in 1934 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In testimony before a subcommittee of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Glover explained: “Our job of correctional professionals is to keep the public safe from convicted felons, to run prisons in a humane way, and to try to give inmates a chance to become productive citizens.
Glover continued: “This is our key argument against any legislation that should eliminate the Federal Prisons Industries program: the inmates who work in it are less prone to get into trouble…”
Because FPI-UNICOR is forbidden to sell goods to entities other than the federal government, S. 346 could herald the end of a program that has served the interests of the American public for some 70 years. In addition to creating a productive environment for inmates, the program reduces recidivism and creates jobs well beyond the prison gates through subcontracts awarded to hundreds of small businesses that manufacture parts for the goods assembled by inmate workers.
“No one knows better than federal corrections officers how to create a safer environment in our federal prisons,” said AFGE National President John Gage. “We oppose this legislation because it will increase the risk faced by the officers who, every day, keep the American people safe from the terrorists and criminals who live behind prison walls.”
"The Federal Prison Industries (FPI) program is sound policy with a proven record,” Glover added. “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 less likely to commit crimes once they are released.”
“Once the contracts currently filled by Federal Prison Industries are farmed out to the big contractors, a ripple effect will be felt throughout the American economy,” Gage continued. “In Pennsylvania today, for instance, FPI pumps some $78 million back into local communities through contracts for supplies and shipping. Small businesses create more jobs than the Fortune 500 combined, and those that rely on contracts from FPI will likely be forced to shut their doors. That’s one way to keep an economic recovery jobless.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 750,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.