Eric Holder and Prison Guard Unions Agree: Sequestration Would Do Too Much Harm to the Prison Industrial Complex

Courtesy of Tamms Year TenCourtesy of Tamms Year TenIn a letter sent earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made an argument you don't hear much from the Obama administration: automatic cuts to the Bureau of Prisons budget would be bad news for towns and private companies that rely on prisons for income.

In addition to reducing man power at prisons and reentry programs for prisoners, Holder warned Senate Democrats that sequestration would slow the "activation" of new prisons and prisons that are nearing completion. In turn, "communities surrounding the prisons would not benefit from the significant economic activity that a prison engenders. We estimate that sequestration will mean over 3,800 fewer jobs related to [new prison] activations that would be foregone, (including an estimated 1,500 private sector jobs)."

There's simply no other way to spin this: At a time when the U.S. has the highest prison population on the planet and a federal prison population that is a) roughly half drug offenders and b) expected to continue growing for the next decade, the Obama administration is extolling the benefits of "activating" more prisons. 

Yesterday, in response to Holder's promise of furloughs, the head of a federal prison union in Wisconsin asked why prisoners couldn't just take the full brunt of sequestration all on their own.

"We can cut back on education; we can cut back on recreations; we can cut back on visitations," Oxford Federal Correction Intitute union president Dave Dauman told WMTV in Madison, Wisconsin. "Why are the staff paying the price? Why aren't the inmates suffering more?" (For more insight on the contempt prison unions have for the people in their care, read Mother Jones' recent piece, Big Labor's Lock 'Em Up Mentality.)

Another member of the union said that assaults on staff are already a concern, and furloughs would increase the chances of a violent conflict

"For the last seven years we've been working at bare minimum staffing, skeleton crews, and now with sequestration we're looking at even deeper cuts. It's not going to be safe," said Oxford FCI's union vice president, James Salzwedel.

Salzwedel says sequestration would mean cuts of about 21 staff members to an already short staff for their nearly 1,300 inmates.

The Bureau of Prison's budget stands to lose $338 million, and staff members have already been told they'll be furloughed without pay for 14 days this year.

"Direct results are assaults on staff," said Salzwedel.

While the Oxford FCI union members and Holder aren't necessarily singing the same song--the union sees a choice between furloughing prison staff or reducing services like vocational training, visits from family, recreation, and re-entry programs, while Holder is claiming that both are going to happen--the two parties clearly agree that the solution of prison over-crowding is more prisons and more guards, not fewer prisoners. 

"Politicians may want to brag about job creation, but it shouldn't be in this area," reads a statement from Families Against Mandatory Minimum.

"The solution here isn't a bigger prison budget, but a smaller prison population. And for that, we need sentencing reform.  Mandatory minimum sentences have stuffed the Bureau of Prisons with nearly 40 percent too many prisoners.  If we got rid of mandatory minimum sentences, we'd see the prison population (and federal prison budget) shrink. Avoiding sequestration does nothing to solve the real problem: Too many federal prisoners serving too many mandatory minimum sentences." 

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  • John||

    . In turn, "communities surrounding the prisons would not benefit from the significant economic activity that a prison engenders.

    Because nothing says economic recovery like building a prison.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Broken windows, broken people, same principle.

  • BarryD||

    Don't they still celebrate Bastille Day in France?

  • Way Of The Crane||

    I thought most people were NIMBYs when it came to building prisons. Seriously though, who the fuck wants to be a prison guard? I mean, other than sadists.

  • John||

    No one. And since prison guards are a hairs width from being criminals themselves, them and their families generally raise the crime rate in the areas around prisons.

  • Brett L||

    The only difference between the guards and the guarded is one group has already been caught and convicted.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    That is why, in IL, the prisons are careful placed in areas that are really down on their luck, shite poor.
    Prison guard is a step up in the world.

  • Fluffy||

    "We can cut back on education; we can cut back on recreations; we can cut back on visitations," Oxford Federal Correction Intitute union president Dave Dauman told WMTV in Madison, Wisconsin. "Why are the staff paying the price? Why aren't the inmates suffering more?

    How do you save money by cutting those things unless you do it by cutting the staff that oversee them?

    The staff is the part that costs money.

  • SugarFree||

    OT: Skating right past the Palin part, because she is just a vessel...

    Slate thinks that buying 106 years supply of something isn't "stockpiling."

  • John||

    Nothing gets you hated more than telling the truth. Here is what she said

    If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3% in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done. Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest.

    Is anything about that not true?

  • ||

    What's funny is that this is feasible since the paranoia goes both ways. Just like people are freaked out and buying tons of guns, what does that look like to the people in the government, who are in their own media cocoon bubble?

  • John||

    I think actually what is going on is a hair brained scheme by the Obama administration to enact defacto gun control buy driving up the price and buying up the supply of ammunition.

    Remember, these people have no idea how markets actually work and don't recognize the existence of the laws of supply and demand. So it is quite possible they think they can buy up all of the ammunition available in the country.

    Also, buying huge amounts of ammunition is a great way to funnel money to your cronies via crooked contracting.

  • Brett L||

    I know a guy in GA who used to make ammo for fun. Then he quit his job to fill all the orders he was getting. Then his wife quit her job to fill the orders he was getting. Pretty soon he'll be a medium sized business owner due to the Feds.

  • wareagle||

    and if they buy up all the ammo, the manufacturer will not make anymore?

  • John||

    Like I said, these people have no idea how markets work and don't recognize the existence of supply and demand. Those subjects don't get taught when you are getting your hate studies degree.

  • Brett L||

    Assuming that Federal managers can think that logically about future consequences?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Future consequences = next years appropriation/my piece of the pie.

  • db||

    Some would consider her more of a "sheath."

  • ||

    A Fleshlight for hatefucking?

  • db||

    Turn on your Hatelight!

    /Neil Diamond

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "For more insight on the contempt prison unions have for the people in their care, read Mother Jones' recent piece, Big Labor's Lock 'Em Up Mentality."

    Guess who Mother Jones supports for President? And Attorney General?

  • John||

    It is funny how liberals still claim to care about such things but never actually hold any of their dear leaders accountable.

  • Fluffy||

    "But it's because of the way capitalism degrades people and makes them desperate. If these poor guards had better opportunities available, their union wouldn't be demanding that we lock up pot smokers so the members can get paid to torture them! So it's libertarians' fault!"

  • Virginian||

    I've basically come to the conclusion that every single thing the Left does is based on if they can get more government jobs created. That's literally all they care about.

    So it's never "end the drug war", it's "continue the drug war, but fund social workers, halfway houses, job retraining programs, etc. etc."

    This country is so fucked.

  • BarryD||

    6-figure jobs with fat pensions, for people with skills that aren't much in demand except in the illegal workforce, where you get to beat the shit out of people every day without consequences?

    I'm sorry, but it's true. Capitalism doesn't offer these sorts of opportunities. Mother Jones is right about that.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well, they would have instituted prison reform if they weren't so tired after fighting those big meanies for healthcare reform.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Of course, since President Obama has expressed concern about some of these mandatory minimums, one way for the feds to save money is to give Obama the power to release some of these offenders, especially the nonviolent ones, before the expiration of their terms, thus cutting the expense of...

    (whisper whisper)

    You mean he already can? Then why doesn't he?

  • John||

    Come on. It is not like he has only commuted on sentence in four years or anything.

  • ||

    I've mentioned this exact thing to a number of people who outright denied that Obama could pardon. Or they blathered something about how the mean old Republicans would call him bad names if he did that and so he's "forced" not to.

  • ||

    Also, the amazing crossover between the people who think 9/11 was some Bush/Cheney false flag operation and blamed Bush when their toast got burned and the people who are totally unable to find Obama responsible for anything, including policies that are entirely executive branch and people who serve at the President's pleasure, would be hilarious if it weren't so depressing.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yeah, if he grants a controversial pardon he might endanger his re-election.

  • Brett L||

    Man, the needle must not be moving at all on this sequester thing. They've thrown everything including the kitchen sink at it.

  • John||

    It never moves. Obama has never convinced anyone of anything other than to vote for him. He has never changed public opinion on a single issue.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    Funny, every leader needs to look back once in a while to see if anyone is following.

  • NeonCat||

    All he has to do is look down - and see the MSM slobbering on him.

  • fish||

    He's been staring at the top of Chris Matthews head for so long he thought it was part of his body.

  • wareagle||

    who knows...maybe the collective lightbulb for those outside of low-infoville has come on.

  • Rich||

    The solution here isn't a bigger prison budget, but a smaller prison population.

    Come on, people, think "outside the box". Rotate prisoner groups 1, 2, ..., N into prison for a week at a time. That way, we can handle N times as many prisoners as we do now, and save or create *many* parole-officer type jobs.

  • Fluffy||

    That's just crazy enough to work.

    It's the first 7 days in prison that are the worst, right? That's where the real wake-up call happens.

    So we give people Will Horton furloughs for a week at a time. One week in, one week out. You commit another crime, you do the whole nickel.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    We can't end the drug war.

    There's too much money in it.

  • DenverJay||

    We can't end the drug war.

    There's too much money power in it.


  • wheelock||

    You really couldn't make this shit up. That is a naked admission of corrupt motivations in the criminal justice system. 1/4 of our population is imprisoned as a jobs program, this straight from the mouth of the guy who keeps them there. This fact will of course sail right through most folk's empty heads without registering at all.


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