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Patrick T.
Republican PA

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  • Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2015

    by Senator Patrick J. Toomey

    Posted on 2015-12-16

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    TOOMEY. Mr. President, I am going make a unanimous consent request, but first I want to say a few words about the legislation about which the request pertains. I want to thank my colleague Senator Bob Casey for joining me on this.

    It was back in 2014 that Senator Casey and I introduced the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act. It is a bipartisan bill, and it is a simple idea. The idea is to better enable these men and women who protect us every day by working as corrections officers--to better enable them to protect themselves in the very dangerous environments in which they go to work every day.

    Amazingly enough, under the Bureau of Prisons policy, prison guards are often placed on duty, guarding large numbers of inmates by themselves, unarmed, and with no meaningful way to defend themselves. Officer Eric Williams of Wayne County, PA, paid the price for this policy. In February of 2013, Eric Williams was working alone in a housing unit of a Federal prison, a unit of 125 inmates. Carrying only a radio, handcuffs, and a set of keys, he had no means of self-defense and no one with him to provide back-up. A gang member serving a life sentence for first-degree murder savagely attacked and killed Officer Williams. The inmate used a homemade weapon to stab Eric Williams 129 times. He beat Eric so badly that his skull was crushed. The damage was so severe that Eric Williams' father stated: ``I didn't even recognize my boy laying in that casket.'' Eric was just 34 years old.

    This Bureau of Prisons policy is very misguided. We send our law enforcement officers alone, without defensive gear, to guard large numbers that include convicted killers. So, working with Senator Casey and with Eric Williams' parents, Don and Jean Williams, we introduced the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act. I should point out that Don and Jean Williams have been absolutely heroic advocates in insisting that correctional officers have this tool at their disposal.

    This is a bill that would require the Bureau of Prisons to issue nonlethal pepper spray to guards at high- and medium-security prisons so that these guards will have some means to protect themselves, some means of self-defense. We know this works. We know this works because there are many, many documented cases where a violent attack is immediately ended by deploying pepper spray. The fact is, pepper spray completely and immediately incapacitates an attacker. It does so while doing no permanent damage.

    Well, it is too late for Eric Williams, but there are thousands of correctional officers across America who are working in dangerous environments every day. If we pass this legislation, we are probably going to save some of their lives over time.

    The bill is bipartisan, as I pointed out. It has been endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees, by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, by the Council of Prisons Local 33. I am pleased to announce that thanks to the concerted and, as I said, heroic efforts of Eric's parents, Don and Jean Williams, and many law enforcement and correction officers across the country, I believe that today the Senate is ready to enact this legislation.

    I also thank my cosponsors, Senators Manchin, McConnell, Cornyn, Inhofe, Capito, Lankford, Kirk, and Vitter.

    Before I make the formal unanimous consent request, I yield to the senior Senator from Pennsylvania who has joined me in this effort, Mr. Casey.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.

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