An AFGE-backed bill has been introduced to make federal prisons safer for employees and inmates. Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania last week introduced the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2015 that would make permanent the Bureau of Prisons’ pepper spray pilot program which allows correctional officers and others to carry pepper spray for personal protection. The bill would also expand pepper spray availability to all medium-security prisons. Currently, the pepper spray pilot program covers all high-security prisons and certain medium-security prisons. The Cartwright bill would cover all employees who respond to conflicts. Employees would be required to complete an annual training course on pepper spray use before being issued pepper spray.
AFGE praised the bill as an important step to help save lives.
"Just like the soldiers in a war are given the tools to survive, correctional workers who are on the front lines need safe and effective tools so they can make it out of these prisons and go home to their families each day," said Eric Young, president of AFGE's Council of Prison Locals.
The bill was named in honor of Officer Williams, an AFGE member who was stabbed to death by an inmate at United States Penitentiary, Canaan, in 2013. Eric was unarmed during the attack.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate last year by Sens. Pat Toomey (PA), Bob Casey (PA), and Joe Manchin (WV).