WASHINGTON— The Council of Prison Locals (CPL) of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today denounced a privatization plan by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) that would weaken prison security, jeopardize community safety and encourage states to take on additional debt.
CCA Chief Corrections Officer and former Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Harley Lappin recently sent a letter to officials in 48 states announcing what the company is calling a “corrections investment initiative,” in which CCA is offering to purchase and operate state prisons under the following conditions: The facility to be sold must have at least 1,000 beds, is filled to at least 90 percent capacity and the state agrees to pay CCA to operate the facility for a minimum of 20 years.
“This is yet another example of a private prison company looking to bolster its bottom line with no regard for safety or fiscal responsibility,” said CPL President Dale Deshotel. “Instead of investing in privatization with taxpayer funds, we should be investing in the correctional officers currently tasked with securing the nation’s federal prison system. We’re understaffed, underfunded and our inmate population is spiraling out of control.”
AFGE, which joined a coalition headed by the American Civil Liberties Union in asking state governors to oppose CCA’s plan, has long opposed the privatization of prisons. The union says federal prisons are safer and more cost-effective than private prisons and maintains that private prisons have a history of slashing operating costs through the reduction of prisoner programs, reducing employee benefits and wages, and routinely operating with low, dangerous staff-to-inmate ratios.
“Federal correctional officers are the most professional, highly-trained correctional workforce in the world and uniquely equipped to handle the demands of prison security and operation,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “Taking this responsibility out of their hands puts communities around the country in grave danger.”
BOP correctional officers and other staff members inside federal prisons are unarmed, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by inmates with homemade weapons. For years, AFGE and CPL have fought not only for additional staffing and funding at BOP but also for protective equipment such as stab-resistant vests and pepper spray. The need for additional resources can be seen with the countless violent outbreaks occurring at BOP facilities across the country. A correctional officer can be responsible for supervising as many as 150 inmates at once and is unarmed inside the facility. Low staffing levels and a more aggressive inmate population have led to a spike in violence – something AFGE says cannot continue.
To learn more about the Council of Prison Locals, visit CPL33.info.