Proposed Bill Would Allow Correctional Officers to Carry Pepper Spray

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WILLIAMSPORT -- The parents of a federal correctional officer who was murdered on the job took part in a news conference, Wednesday in Lycoming County to push for legislation that would better protect prison guards.

Federal correctional officers across the country do not carry any type of protection while on duty, but lawmakers want to see that change. They're proposing a bill named after Eric Williams, the correctional officer from Luzerne County who was killed last year, and his parents say Eric's fellow officers need more protection.

"Eric was tortured. He died a horrible death and as a mother I would never want to see anybody else go through that," said Eric's mother, Jean Williams.

Jean Williams, of Nanticoke, came to a news conference in Williamsport to show support for a bill that that would help protect federal correctional officers. Her son, Eric Williams was not armed when he was killed by an inmate last year, inside a federal prison in Wayne County.

"I can't bring my son back, that certainly would be the number one thing my wife and I would want to happen, but that's not going to happen, so the only other thing we can do is step up and say we don't want our son to have died in vain," said Don Williams, Eric’s father.

Senator Pat Toomey says federal correctional officers have been pushing for more protection.

That's why he recently proposed the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act. It would allow officers in medium to high security federal prisons to carry pepper spray.

"It very likely would give a corrections officer a better chance if there is a confrontation, if there is an incident,” Senator Toomey said.

Officers involved in a pilot program already carrying pepper spray say it works. They would like to see correctional officers from across the country be able to carry it just in case.

"You need to be on your guard 24 hours a day, every time you have to walk behind that wall your life is in danger and you need to protect yourself at all times," said Ed Hayden, a correctional officer.

"We lost someone dear and close to us and we must keep advocating to make it safer," said Darrell Palmer, the union's leader.

One prison taking part in the pepper spray pilot program is the federal prison near Waymart. That’s where Eric Williams was working when he was murdered. The Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act bill is currently being looked at by the senate judiciary committee.


  • Amanda

    What about state corrections officer’s? They are still left with nothing and they are dealing with more threats than most federal prison’s. This should be for all state and federal prison’s. I understand that prisoners will have more to grab at but if you don’t allow these corrections officers at least a small fighting chance than they are as good as dead walking into work everyday!!

  • tom

    Why haven’t these officers been carrying pepper sreay all along?They do need protection of some kind.The prisoners don’t care what they do to officers-they have nothing to lose.They would kill them in a heartbeat.

  • Pamela Bower

    My husband is a correctional officer in a state prison in Texas. He carries pepper spray and he had to use it in an altercation with an inmate. He tells me that when a guard pulls out the canister of pepper spray 9times out of 10, the inmate backs off and says “nope no way …I’m good”
    Correctional officers need protection! I worry about him every time he goes to work but knowing he has some form if protection eases my mind some. I do hope they pass the Eric Williams Protection Act for federal correctional officers!!!



    • Ryan

      Yes, send a man with a gun into a room with 200 criminals.
      They would all jump him at once, then shoot the other guards to escape.
      In almost every State prison every officer has door keys too. So lose/lose

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