Big Labor’s Lock ‘Em Up Mentality
How otherwise progressive unions stand in the way of a more humane correctional system
Now AFSCME will apparently fight to keep a troubled prison open simply to keep some of its members from having to relocate. All of Tamms’ union employees were guaranteed placement in other facilities, and no positions were lost due to the closure. But the union argued that conditions at Tamms—widely denounced as cruel, inhumane, and ineffective—were necessary for safety and security, and that the prison was needed to keep jobs in southern Illinois. Tamms Year Ten countered with protests where prisoners’ relatives hoisted signs bearing slogans like “Torture Is a Crime—Not a Career” and “My Son Is Not a Paycheck.”
AFSCME is just one of four large national unions—among them Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and the Teamsters—representing prison workers. And corrections officers in a number of states and even some local jail systems have their own powerful unions….
As strapped states and localities look to their corrections budgets for savings, unions have fought proposed facility closures and the establishment of programs that would divert offenders into treatment and other lockup alternatives. They have frequently opposed reforms that could affect their members’ autonomy, including oversight programs designed to curb abuses by prison employees.
Several unions have attempted to counter the growing tide of reformers who condemn long-term solitary confinement as not only torturous but also counterproductive to prison safety.
See also Prison Culture on Tamms
CI: Old/School/New School 2 – Golden Gulag for more on the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA)