Two senators from Pennsylvania Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey Jr. were determined that the death of Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officer Eric Williams last year wouldn't be in vain, and so this week – the National Correctional Officers Week – they introduced a bill that would provide BOP officers and employees with pepper spray so that they can protect themselves in emergency situations.
Specifically, the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2014 would authorize all correctional officers and BOP employees who are required to respond to an emergency situation in federal medium and high-security prisons to carry pepper spray. The bill would require these employees to go through annual training and would require the Government Accountability Office to evaluate issuing pepper spray to officers in minimum security prisons. The senators worked with AFGE BOP Council of Prison Locals leadership and AFGE Local 3003 at USP Canaan (where Williams worked) to come up with the bill.
“Pepper Spray is the most essential piece of equipment correctional workers can have in order for staff to be able to protect themselves and discharge their responsibility on behalf of the America people,” said AFGE BOP Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young. “It is one additional tool that gives them the opportunity to make it out of the prisons each day from working with inmates."
On Tuesday Officer Williams was memorialized by Attorney General Eric Holder at the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. before his family – Don and Jean Williams. A vigil was held simultaneously in Memphis the same day.
Young said after Officer Williams was killed, the council worked collaboratively with BOP to add a second officer in all high security units to assist each other in the event of emergencies. The council is continuing to work with BOP to expand the pepper spray pilot to every BOP employee working in prisons who responds to emergencies as they too are routinely surrounded by hundreds of inmates at a time.