Skip to main content
Resolutions & Amendments

34th International Convention - Philadelphia (2000)

Opposing Prison Privatization

Resolution No. 89
34th International Convention
June 26 - 30, 2000
Philadelphia, PA


State and local governments, confronted with prison overcrowding and fiscal constraints, and the promise of jobs and tax revenues in impoverished communities, have been experimenting with prison privatization; and


Even though only six percent of the adult inmate population is under private management, this number is expected to increase 20 percent to 25 percent a year over the next five years, to approximately 15 percent of the total adult inmate population by 2005; and


Private firms generate profits by understaffing facilities, paying employees inferior wages and benefits, providing inadequate staff training, not paying corporate or property taxes, and providing inadequate services. This endangers communities and workers, erodes local economies, and increases liability for the contracting jurisdictions; and


Despite all of the ways that private management firms cut corners, there is no conclusive evidence that prison privatization saves tax dollars. However, there are numerous "horror" stories at private prisons in places like Youngstown, Ohio; Travis County, Texas; Jena, Louisiana; and Santa Rosa and Hobbs, New Mexico; and


The stock prices for the three biggest companies, which manage over 80% of all adult private prison beds, have plummeted, and each of the companies has experienced severe financial difficulties. The financial viability of these firms is uncertain and presents significant risks to jurisdictions that contract with them; and


There is widespread opposition to private prisons. A recent AFSCME poll of people likely to vote in the 2000 election found that 51% oppose them while only 28% support them. Groups across the political spectrum, from churches to inmates' rights advocates and law enforcement organizations, are on record opposing private prisons.


That AFSCME strongly opposes the privatization of prisons. The case against prison privatization is clear. The profit motive does not improve prison operation, nor does it save taxpayer money. Prison privatization only benefits corporations and their shareholders. The promises to communities of jobs and tax revenues never materialize. Cost-cutting and high employee turnover lead to dangerous conditions inside and outside the prison walls. The operation of prisons is a fundamental government responsibility; and


That the problems in the private prison industry and public opinion in favor of government-operated prisons create a unique opportunity for AFSCME and other opponents of private prisons. AFSCME should seize this opportunity and develop and execute a comprehensive strategy against prison privatization utilizing all available tools, including legislation, media relations, member mobilization and coalition building; and


That our fight against prison privatization can only be won with the involvement of all levels of the union, including locals, councils and the International. The International and all affiliates should make this issue a priority.