Legislation, intended to help make the working conditions of federal correctional officers safer, is being introduced by Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators. The bill, which will be called the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2014, is being sponsored by Senators Pat Toomey-R, and Bob Casey-D. It is named after a graduate of King’s College, Eric Williams, who was killed in the line of duty by an inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan in Pennsylvania in February 2013.
Some of the main points covered in the bill include expanding the availability of pepper spray to Bureau of Prisons officers and employees who work at the prisons. Under the bill, the use of pepper spray will be authorized in any situation in which an officer reasonably determines that an inmate poses a risk of serious bodily injury to any other person including other officers, other inmates, and employees.
Additionally, the bill will allow employees who respond to inmate emergencies to carry pepper spray. Notably, however, the bill does not require the Bureau of Prisons to provide pepper spray to its employees or to pay for pepper spray purchases.
The brutal murder of Eric Williams has served as a galvanizing point in the fight to help make the working conditions of the nation’s correctional officers more secure. Williams’ alleged murderer, Jessie Con-ui, is currently facing trial. Though jury selection had been set for September 16, 2013, the process was postponed and has so far not been rescheduled. Con-ui has pleaded not guilty to the murder.
The parents of Officer Williams, Donald and Jean Williams, have been lobbying for changes to operating procedures of U.S. prisons in the wake of their son’s death. They are hopeful that both Democrats and Republicans will support the bill, and that it will help keep federal correctional officers safer in the future.