Posted 6 months ago on Sept. 11, 2013, 3:04 p.m. EST by grimwomyn (35) from New York, NY
The AFL-CIO condemned the nation's prison system that disproportionately targets people of color, in a strongly worded resolution unanimously approved by the federation's quadrennial convention here Sept. 10.
The resolution blasts "for-profit prison companies" that promote a correctional system "for the sake of profit without regard to justice."
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who chaired the session on resolutions, did not often inject his own personal views, but on this one, he spoke out movingly: "We have failed our communities," he said - in the shabby housing we have provided, in the inadequate schools we have offered, in the absence of decent, well-paying jobs, many of which we have shipped overseas. "And then we lock up the people left behind!"
Citing his own recent experience touring a prison, Trumka was shocked to see "how absolutely packed our prisons are with young Black and brown men. It's not much different from the old laws against 'vagrancy'" that sent thousands of men to chain gangs providing free labor to the state. We cannot just write such vast numbers of people off, he said. "There's a big money industry driving it - a system that profits from misery. We must and we will do better."
Trumka called for replacing "the school-to-prison pipeline with good jobs and a voice on the job." He asked our nation to "stop investing in private prisons and start investing in working people."
He also acknowledged hard-working fellow union members who are prison guards, often placed in dangerous and stressful situations. But the larger issue remains, he said.
The resolution points out that the nation's prison population exploded from 500,000 to 2.2 million between 1980 and 2011, in the decades since the for-profit business of incarceration was born. It cites a Pew Center study noting that one in every 106 white males over the age of 18 is incarcerated, compared to one in 36 Hispanic males, and one in 15 Black males.