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Congressman Tom Marino

Representing the 10th District of Pennsylvania

McKinley, Marino, Cartwright Offer Proposal to Protect Federal Prison Officials

January 23, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – Representatives David B. McKinley, P.E. (WV-1), Tom Marino (PA-10), and Matt Cartwright (PA-17), introduced legislation that will protect Federal Corrections workers by allowing them to carry pepper spray. The bill is named after Eric Williams, a Federal Corrections Officer in Pennsylvania who was brutally killed by an inmate in 2013.

Mr. Don Williams, father of fallen her Eric Williams said, "To have this bill named after our son Eric is a great tribute to his memory.  Thanks to the efforts of Congressman Marino and others who have worked diligently on this bill, the problems encountered by prison staff are finally being addressed.  Hopefully, this will begin to raise awareness of the dangers encountered in the workplace for these officers and staff, and the risk of another tragedy like Eric's will begin to diminish."

“Any worker who enters his or her workplace should feel safe every day,” said McKinley. “However, that’s not the case with federal corrections workers who often have no line of defense during conflicts inside prison walls.”

“We listened to horrific stories about violence against guards from constituents who work in our federal prisons and decided to take action. Their job is dangerous and stressful. This proposal will help give correctional officers and their families some peace of mind,” added McKinley.

“Prison officers face a unique kind of danger and it is imperative we provide them with every tool and authorization necessary to protect their lives and well-being,” said Marino. “That is mission number one. Unfortunately we have lost too many good officers and the tragic loss of Eric Williams still weighs heavy on our hearts. That is why we must make the FBP pepper spray pilot program a permanent one because it has provided positive results and protected countless officers from dangerous prison populations.”

“Since the tragic death of Officer Eric Williams, I have been committed to finding ways to provide a safer work place environment for these men and women,” said Cartwright. “Correctional Officers and prison employees put their lives on the line every day to meet inmates’ needs and keep our communities safe.  This legislation is a great first step, but more needs to be done to address severe underfunding and a lack of adequate staffing to safeguard prison workers.”

The legislation would make permanent a Federal Bureau of Prisons pilot program that allows correctional workers to carry pepper spray. In addition, it will expand the pepper spray availability to medium and higher security facilities and 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.