Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that a pilot program to equip prison workers with pepper spray will expand to six new medium security facilities including Pennsylvania’s Allenwood, as well as giving access to pepper spray to recreational, food service, and other employees who regularly interact with inmates. The program, which is run by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), closely mirrors legislation Casey introduced in the wake of the death of Northeastern Pennsylvania prison officer Eric Williams. Casey successfully urged BOP to launch a pepper spray pilot program for high security prisons that eventually expanded nationwide.
“This announcement is a step in the right direction that will increase the safety of prison workers,” Senator Casey said. “It’s critical that Congress pass legislation that would make this pilot program permanent and ensure prison officers across the country have the tools they need to stay safe on the job.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in 2011 finding that some state correctional facilities that allow guards to carry pepper spray saw reduced assault rates as a result of the policy. Until 2012’s Casey-backed pilot program for high security prisons was initiated, BOP had barred all correctional officers from carrying pepper spray.
Senator Casey introduced the Federal Correctional Officer Protective Equipment Act to carry out GAO’s recommendation that BOP hold a pilot program to determine the effectiveness of the policy. In June 2012, the Lewisburg facility was chosen to participate in a limited pilot program. In March 2013, the Bureau of Prisons announced that guards at all high security facilities will have access to this form of protection, including the Allenwood and Canaan prisons, located in Pennsylvania.