On July 16, President Obama became the first sitting president to tour a federal correctional facility. AFGE Council of Prison Locals (CPL) President Eric Young, CPL South Central Regional Vice President Clifton Buchanan, and members of AFGE Local 171 at FCI El Reno in Oklahoma were all present for the occasion.
As Obama toured the prison blocks, most with cells occupied by multiple inmates, he denounced mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenders. Harsh sentencing laws like mandatory minimums have led to an explosion in prison populations across the country, straining budgets, and putting both officers and inmates in harm's way, according to AFGE.
AFGE's Council of Prison Locals, which represents over 33,000 correctional workers at federal prisons across the country, praised the President's call for reform:
"For years, the Council of Prison Locals has worked to reform harsh sentencing laws and curb the rampant overcrowding of our facilities," Young said. "Packing too many inmates into one facility makes conditions more dangerous for both officers and inmates. We thank the President for his support in addressing the overcrowding crisis, and we look forward to working with the administration in identifying other ways we can make our federal prisons safer."
The AFGE Council of Prison Locals is an adamant supporter of Senator Durbin's and Rep. Raul Labrador's efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentencing. The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 was the first bill endorsed by the organization. In 2013 the union launched the Safe Prisons Project, a grassroots organizing campaign to promote policies that reduce overcrowding and underfunding while increasing officer safety. With the President's comments, AFGE and CPL are redoubling its efforts to make these reforms a reality.
"AFGE applauds President Obama for taking a stand on overcrowding and endorsing common sense measures to make our prisons safer," AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr. said. "Correctional officers put their lives on the line each day to keep our communities safe, and reducing the inmate population to a manageable level would be a huge first step in the right direction."
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow on Facebook , Twitter , and YouTube.