Federal prisons have never been the safest places to work. But thanks to your years of hard work, the Senate just unanimously voted to provide pepper spray to correctional workers, and included additional safety measures in a year-end funding package both the House and Senate passed Friday.
“Our staff, day to day, work with some of the worst offenders our society has ever produced,” said AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young. “Prior to the pilot program, correctional officers had no means of self-defense as they discharge their duties on behalf of the American people supervising these inmates. Our colleagues deserve to feel safe in their workplace, and we are thrilled that this passage permanently ensures a means of self-defense to all of our correctional staff working at medium or higher security prisons."
The Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2015 is named for Officer Eric Williams, a correctional officer and AFGE member murdered in the line of duty in 2013. If passed by the House of Representatives, it will allow federal correctional officers and employees who work in high or medium security prisons to routinely carry pepper spray to defend themselves and others if physically attacked by inmates. The bill also would require annual training of BOP correctional workers prior to the issuance.
Congress also passed additional safety measures in the year-end funding package, directing the Bureau of Prisons to provide a second correctional officer in housing units in high security prisons, to provide another line of defense for officers in the event of an inmate attack. This is a huge victory - current staffing levels in the BOP are dangerously low, with correctional workers asked to supervise as many as 125 inmates alone.
The spending bill would also provide $6.95 billion for BOP operations, which is a $133.5 million increase over FY 2015 levels, and would prohibit the disastrous OMB A-76 process from returning to the BOP.
“We have seen two of our brothers murdered by the inmates under their watch in the last three years, and another murdered just after leaving his shift.” said AFGE President J. David Cox, Sr. “We are deeply grateful that this bill has been passed, to provide our prison workers with the tools they need to protect themselves, before any more workers are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.”
To watch the video of the Senate's passage of the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2015, click here.