Sen. McConnell fights to protect Kentucky jobs from going to Federal Prisons Industries [Opinion: The Arena]
Yesterday, we told readers of Senator Mitch McConnell’s valiant efforts to save the 400 jobs at Louisville’s Cardinal Aluminum Company. Today, the Senate Republican Leader called on Congress to approve his new legislation – The Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2012 – which requires the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. Currently, the Director of BOP is appointed by the U.S. Attorney General from within the executive branch and is largely insulated from congressional accountability.
“Under my bill, the Bureau of Prisons and Federal Prisons Industries can no longer thumb their noses at Congress and at our constituents whose jobs they are jeopardizing,” Senator McConnell said. “This measure will not only bring some much needed accountability and transparency to this Agency, but it will also help save Kentucky jobs and potentially the safety of those serving their country as federal corrections officers.”
Kentucky’s Junior Senator, Republican Rand Paul, signed on as an original co-sponsor of Sen. McConnell’s bill. “I support this bill because it brings a level of accountability and transparency to BOP decision-making, and it is in the best interests of Kentuckians,” Sen. Paul said.
The Director of BOP oversees the Federal Prisons Industries (FPI), which directly competes with the private sector, including small businesses, for Government contracts. McConnell decided to introduce the legislation after he was contacted by several Kentucky companies seeking assistance in stopping FPI from taking jobs away from Kentuckians and giving them to prisoners.
One instance was the Ashland Sales and Service, Co., located in Olive Hill, Kentucky. The company is the supplier of a dress jacket that is mandatory for all members of the Air Force. The company, which employs around 100 Kentuckians, would have closed if the Obama Administration had awarded their contract to convicted criminals serving in a federal penitentiary. Senator McConnell was contacted by the company and called on the Administration to drop its bid which it eventually did.
Michael Mansh, owner of Ashland Sales and Service in Olive Hill said the following about Sen. McConnell’s bill: "Last month, the outlook for 100 apparel manufacturing jobs in Olive Hill, Kentucky, was bleak. When Senator McConnell learned of FPI's attempt to steal this contract, he immediately went to work on behalf of 100 Kentuckians. His leadership has given our reform effort a major boost, and this new legislation will make certain that every senator will have the opportunity to fight for jobs in their states before this runaway program is allowed to take them like a thief in the night.”
Another Kentucky company that contacted McConnell was Campbellsville Apparel, which makes undershirts for the military.
Chris Reynolds, President of Campbellsville Apparel, said his company supports “Senator McConnell’s bill to subject FPI to greater accountability.” He added, “Our Company believes that FPI should be more accountable to the public by never taking a job that is currently done by an American taxpaying citizen.”
The Director of BOP also supervises more than 1,900 Kentuckians who work at the commonwealth’s five federal prisons and who protect the public under hazardous conditions on a daily basis. Kentucky corrections officers have repeatedly called for BOP to take additional steps to mitigate risks to officer safety from violent inmates. Subjecting the BOP Director to the same congressional review as every other law enforcement agency chief within the Department of Justice, will ensure a greater responsiveness by the agency to the safety needs of its dedicated corrections officer workforce.
Don Peace, Executive Vice President of Local 614, which represents the staff at the U.S. Penitentiary McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky, praised Sen. McConnell’s legislation. “The potential impact of this bill would be greatly beneficial for all Bureau of Prisons staff that put their life on the line everyday just going to work and doing their job, which is protecting society from criminal offenders,” Peace said.
Text of The Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2012 is available HERE.
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions). The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America. Photo credits: UNICOR Federal Prison Industries, Campbellsville Apparel, Ashland Sales and Service, Sen. Mitch McConnell.