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Corrections in the 21st Century

WHEREAS:

            The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails, a 500 percent increase over the past thirty years. With only five percent of the world’s population, the United States has 25 percent of all incarcerated offenders; and

WHEREAS:

            The portion of violent offenders in prison nationwide has increased from 45 percent to 53 percent during the last two decades. There are also believed to be ten times more mentally ill people behind bars than in state hospitals, creating the challenge of managing a growing number of violent and mentally ill inmates with limited resources; and

WHEREAS:

            The growth in the inmate population has resulted in prison overcrowding and the challenge of adequately staffing facilities, maintaining safe working conditions and providing offenders with the necessary services and resources. At the end of 2012, 24 states were operating at or over 100 percent of capacity; and

WHEREAS:

            Inmate overcrowding and understaffing have led to unnecessarily hazardous conditions inside correctional facilities including increased assaults against staff, gang violence and sexual abuse. California, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio are a few of the states that have been in the news recently because of inmate overcrowding and staffing concerns; and

WHEREAS:

            The private prison industry was created to profit from inmate overcrowding and will continue to generate huge profits if overcrowding persists. The recent economic downturn deterred any meaningful public sector prison development in recent years, a situation that aids the private prison industry; and

WHEREAS:

            The recent economic downturn also caused jurisdictions to look at sentencing reform and other ways to decrease their inmate populations and incarceration costs. California was forced to reduce its inmate population by the courts. As a result of these efforts, the U.S. correctional population decreased for the fourth year in a row during 2012; and  

WHEREAS:

            States have decreased the number of offenders who enter prison by expanding county-based supervision and treatment and creating alternatives to incarnation for probation and parole rule violations. Since 2001, the number of drug offenders entering prison has declined by more than 20 percent; and

WHEREAS:

            Since 2011, 17 states have closed or consolidated prisons. In at least nine states, sentencing and corrections laws have lowered prison populations to the point where officials felt closure or consolidation was warranted; and

WHEREAS:

            Some jurisdictions have used lower offender populations to close publicly-operated facilities while leaving privately-operated facilities open. Closing publicly-operated facilities can often lead to dangerous overcrowding in the remaining facilities, particularly since publicly-run facilities house the most dangerous, disadvantaged and costly inmates; and

WHEREAS:

            U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced federal sentencing reform guidelines as part of his “Smart on Crime” initiative. State and local governments may be persuaded to intensify their efforts to reduce their offender populations as a result of recent efforts by the federal government.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME will support reforms that include adequate staffing of the criminal justice system and provide for safer conditions for staff and offenders. AFSCME will support reforms that provide the necessary resources for offenders to receive the services needed to successfully integrate back into society; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME will work to ensure that closing or consolidating correctional facilities does not result in prison overcrowding. AFSCME will work to ensure privately-operated facilities are closed before publicly-operated facilities are considered for closure; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME will work with affiliates and allies to support legislation and policies that support schools and communities in developing and funding programs to reduce the number of young people who drop out of school or are suspended or expelled and will support programs that work with law enforcement officers to educate rather than unnecessarily penalize youth.

 

SUBMITTED BY:
Danny J. Homan, President and Delegate
Susie Baker, Vice President and Delegate
Jerry Jones, Secretary/Treasurer and Delegate
AFSCME Council 61
Iowa

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