WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council of Prisons Locals (CPL) applauds the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, which makes permanent the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) pilot program to provide pepper spray to workers at medium, high, and maximum security prisons.
“I’m so proud to see this bill passed after years of hard work," said CPL President Eric Young. "I am especially proud of our union officials who lobbied Capitol Hill on this issue. Most important, I am proud of our AFGE members and the Williams family for making this a reality."
When enacted, the bill will allow federal correctional officers and employees who work in high or medium security prisons to routinely carry pepper spray so they may defend themselves and others, if physically attacked by violent prison inmates. The bill also requires annual training of BOP correctional workers prior to the issuance of the new protective tool.
“Prior to the pilot program, correctional officers had no means of self-defense as they discharged their duties on behalf of the American people by supervising some of the most dangerous inmates in the country," Young said. "Our communities know peace because correctional workers do their jobs so well, and we are thrilled that this passage permanently ensures a means of self-defense to all of our correctional staff who work at medium or higher security prisons."
AFGE President J. David Cox, Sr. thanked Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania for their Jan. 22, 2015 introduction of the bill, The Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, and for gaining support for it among their colleagues.
He also thanked Representative David McKinley of West Virginia for adopting and sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives, and Representative Tom Marino of Pennsylvania for pushing for a suspension vote on the bill.
The bill, which passed the House by voice vote, was named to honor the memory of Eric Williams, a correctional officer and AFGE member murdered in the line of duty. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent in December 2015. It will now go to President Obama for his signature.
“We have seen two of our brothers murdered by the inmates under their watch in the last three years and another was murdered just after leaving his shift,” Cox said. “We are grateful that this bill, once signed into law, will 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.”