Big Labor, a Big Opponent of Prison Reform

March 4, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 12.27.52 PMAs reported by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella in Mother Jones magazine, “On January 4, the Tamms Correctional Center, a supermax prison in southern Illinois, officially closed its doors. Tamms, where some men had been kept in solitary confinement for more than a decade, was notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners with mental illness—and for driving sane prisoners to madness and suicide. The closing, sought by human rights and prison reform advocates was vociferously supported in demonstrations outside the prison’s gates ( for Mother Jones article, click on image on left photo image on the left).

What was surprising was the fierce opposition of big labor, even when all staff was promised continued state employment.The major force holding up the closure of  was the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which, according to its website, represents 85,000 corrections employees nationally (as well as a total membership of1.6 million members. As well described in the Mother Jones article, prison unions and their partners in big labor have taken a more and more aggressive stance against prison closures. The article holds out some hope that the fissure between labor and prison reform cn be closed.



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