Say Proposed Mandatory Minimum Sentences Are Unfunded Mandate
WASHINGTON – The Council of Prison Locals, the union representing correctional staff in federal prisons, today warned that legislation making its way through Congress that would classify certain gang-related crimes as federal offenses and impose mandatory minimum sentences could make federal prisons more dangerous.
“We’re all for getting tough on crime, but felons don’t just disappear once they go to prison,” said Phil Glover, president of the Council. Glover explained that over the past few years, staffing levels in federal prisons have not kept pace with the growth of the prison population, making these facilities more violent. By creating a whole new class of federal crimes without providing the staff to control the new prisoners, prisons will continue to become more dangerous, said Glover.
On May 5, Glover testified before Congress about the increase in assaults within federal prisons. According to Bureau of Prisons data, the number of assaults is now 34 percent higher than during the early part of the decade. Glover noted that the rise in assaults corresponds to a drop in staffing levels at federal correctional facilities.
Glover said that one way to get tough with criminals is for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute inmates who attack correctional staff. Glover noted that DOJ seems slow to prosecute inmates for such offenses and does not seem to pursue cases with vigor. In one tragic attack, correctional officer Scott Williams, who worked at the U.S. Penitentiary at Lompoc, Calif., was murdered. Although the murder was captured on video tape and more than eight years have passed since the attack, the inmate accused of killing Williams has yet to stand trial. The trial has been delayed several times, in part due to defense claims that the accused is insane. Despite the fact that the accused has been determined to be mentally competent, the trial currently is delayed yet again so another determination of competency can be made.
“Enough already. What else can the defense say when the murder was caught on video tape besides argue that their client is crazy? The defense won’t admit guilt and accept punishment. Our legal system has failed the family of Scott Williams. The fact that there still has been no trial eight years after his murder mocks our legal system and defies calls for swift justice,” said Glover.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. The Council of Prison Locals represents 28,000 employees of the Bureau of Prisons, including 15,000 correctional officers.