WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cosponsored legislation to help protect correctional officers and staff at Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities. Kentucky has five federal correctional facilities -- in Manchester, Pine Knot, Ashland, Inez, and Lexington -- that employ almost 2,000 Kentuckians. The legislation was introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).
The Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, named in honor of a fallen federal correctional officer killed at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Pennsylvania in 2013, is designed to allow officers who respond to emergency situations inside a federal prison to carry and use pepper spray to help reduce violent acts inside prisons. After Officer Williams’ line-of-duty death, BOP expanded an existing pepper spray pilot program started in 2012 to test the use of pepper spray at additional facilities. This bill would make the pilot project permanent for medium and high security prisons. Many state prison systems, including Kentucky’s, have long allowed correctional officers the ability to carry pepper spray for officer safety.
“This issue is critically important to the thousands of Kentuckians who work at federal prisons across the Commonwealth,” Senator McConnell said.“These federal corrections officers should have tools such as pepper spray which will allow them to protect and safely defend themselves at work, and I proudly cosponsored this bill on their behalf.”
Don Peace, President of Local 614, which represents the staff at the U.S. Penitentiary McCreary in Pine Knot, said, “Once again Senator McConnell is showing his unwavering support of Federal Law Enforcement Officers. By cosponsoring this bill it is clear Senator McConnell is very concerned with the safety of the women and men who put their lives on the line everyday keeping America safe. The passage of this bill would give these staff members the safety equipment they need to keep them safe in the very dangerous environments of America's prisons.”
The legislation Senator McConnell supported builds on his work on behalf of Kentucky’s corrections officers. Earlier this year, Senator McConnell introduced the Federal Prisons Accountability Act, which would require that the Director of the BOP be subject to Senate advice and consent in the hopes of bringing more accountability to the BOP and more responsiveness to Congressional oversight. Under current law, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons is not subject to Senate confirmation.