The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has agreed to allow all staff at all high and medium security prisons to carry pepper spray to protect themselves and others if attacked by inmates. This major victory is a culmination AFGE members’ efforts to create for better working conditions for the correctional officers that keep our communities safe.
The decision came on the second anniversary of the deaths of Officer Eric Williams and Lt. Osvaldo Albarati, who were killed in the line of duty on Feb. 25, 2013 and Feb. 26, 2013 respectively. BOP Director Charles Samuels, Jr. himself informed the AFGE BOP Executive Board of the decision during a partnership meeting last Thursday. The day before, the executive board and BOP executive staff visited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to pay respect to Williams, Albarati, and other officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. They also opened both days of the partnership meetings with a moment of silence to pay homage to the fallen officers.
The pepper spray pilot program previously covered all high-security prisons and certain medium-security prisons. Now it covers all high and medium security prisons, administrative jail units and detention centers, and medical facilities.
“We applaud BOP for making the right call that would help save lives,” said AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young. “As president of the Council of Prison Locals, I am proud to see these national initiatives from the national partnership committee continue to evolve.”
AFGE continues to push for passage of the bills that would make the pepper spray pilot program permanent. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania. The Senate version was introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia
The expansion of the pepper spray program was one of the goals of AFGE’s ongoing Safe Prisons Project. AFGE is also calling for increased funding for BOP to address chronic understaffing issues that endanger our officers. We also support mandatory sentencing reform by backing the Smart Sentencing Act to reduce overcrowding of our prisons.
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