Congressman Marino, Chairman Goodlatte Visit Key Pennsylvania Prison Facilities
Allenwood/Lewisburg, PA—Congressman Tom Marino (PA-10) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA- 06) toured Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Allenwood and USP (United States Penitentiary) Lewisburg over the weekend as part of their efforts to connect with Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials regarding the many challenges facing America’s prison system.
The timing of this visit was significant as the full Judiciary Committee begins its Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. The initiative includes site visits to key facilities as well as a listening session in Washington D.C. by the full Judiciary Committee where any Member of the House of Representatives is provided the forum to present proposed reforms to America’s criminal justice system. The goal is to assess and methodically approach reforms by taking, “a step-by-step approach to address a variety of criminal justice issues, including over-criminalization, sentencing reform, prison and reentry reform, protecting citizens through improved criminal procedures and policing strategies, and civil asset forfeiture reform.”
Last week’s visit gave Congressman Marino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, and full committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte an opportunity to examine first-hand the state of the federal prison population.
Among those attending the visit were local union representatives from both facilities, Allenwood Warden L.J. Oddo, the LSCI Warden Juan Baltazar, BOP Regional Director for the Northeast Region Joe Norwood, and Lewisburg Warden David J. Ebbert.
During both site visits, topical discussions ranged from prison populations, overcrowding, staffing shortages, as well as inmate drug treatment, educational and vocational programs. Goodlatte and Marino also discussed current reentry programs, and potential areas for improvement.
“It is truly remarkable how efficiently these prison facilities operate. Bob and I had a chance to tour many critical areas within each location, but it was the discussions with BOP leadership and employees which revealed the most critical needs for reform ahead of our upcoming committee activities,” said Representatives Marino. “Officer safety was on the forefront of our minds from the moment we arrived. It is absolutely imperative we provide these officers with every tool necessary to protect themselves while on duty. I hope to propose and support reforms which address the needs expressed to us during this visit.”
In January of this year, Congressmen Marino, David McKinley (WV-1) and Matt Cartwright (PA-17) introduced legislation to protect Federal Corrections workers by allowing them to carry pepper spray while on duty. The bill is named after Eric Williams, a Federal Corrections Officer in Pennsylvania who was brutally killed by an inmate in 2013.
Currently BOP has a pilot program that provides pepper spray to officers and staff at all high and medium security prisons. The legislation would make the pilot program permanent. In addition, it would expand the pepper spray availability to medium and higher security facilities as well as require Federal Correctional workers to complete training courses before carrying and using the spray.
The bill is supported by the National Association of Police Organizations, the Council of Local Prisons, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and was found by the Congressional Budget Office to have no cost to the taxpayers. Similar legislation was introduced in the 113th Congress.