CANAAN TOWNSHIP -- Federal correctional officers can now carry pepper spray on the job, thanks to a new federal law signed by President Obama Wednesday.
The bill, named "The Eric Williams Correctional Officers Protection Act," comes from Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, after Eric Williams was murdered allegedly by an inmate at the federal prison in Wayne County back in 2013.
Before this bill passed, federal corrections officers only had a radio, handcuffs, and keys to protect themselves.
"It helps us to know that maybe we've done something," said Don Williams, the father of Eric Williams. "Maybe what happened to us won't happen to other families."
"We were so appalled by the fact that he had nothing to protect himself," said Jean Williams, Eric's mother.
Darrell Palmer worked as a corrections officer for 20 years, including five years at USP Canaan. Now, he works as a union rep for federal corrections officers and has been trying for years to get better protection for officers.
"When people perceive working in a prison, they think inmates are locked away. That's not the case. When Eric was taken from us, he was alone with 125 inmates, high security inmates at that," said Palmer.
The new law allows federal corrections officers in medium to high-security prisons the ability to carry pepper spray.
"It's a step forward in a long overdue measure for the safety of corrections officers. There's still more, but it's a great step forward," Don Williams added.
The Williams family says they'd still like to see even more protections for federal corrections officers, including the ability for officers to drive to and from work with their own firearms legally and putting more officers in housing units.