Today, U.S. Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) sent a letter to Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels, urging a comprehensive overview of all policies impacting the safety of federal corrections officers, as well as a reevaluation of policies pertaining to the recruitment and retention of officers.
"The Bureau of Prisons can and must do more to ensure that correctional officers in our federal prisons guard are operating in a safe work environment," said Marino. "The Bureau needs to take a comprehensive look at these policies and make sure they are doing everything possible to maintain safety and order in their prisons."
On February 25, 2013, Correctional Officer Eric Williams was viciously attacked and murdered while performing nightly lockdown duties at the United States Penitentiary in Canaan, located in the congressional district represented by Rep. Marino. Several reports indicate that Officer Williams was alone with 130 inmates at the time of the attack, armed only with a radio, keys, and handcuffs.
"This tragedy is a devastating reminder of the dangers the correctional officers at our federal prisons confront every day and highlights that the Bureau of Prisons and Congress must to more to adequately protect the officers who put their lives on the line to keep us safe," Marino said in his letter to Director Samuels. "Since being elected to serve in Congress, I have advocated that the BOP do more to ensure that correctional officers at our federal prisons have the tools they need to adequately protect themselves against some of the most violent criminals in the world."
During his time in Congress, Rep. Marino has been a strong and consistent supporter of law enforcement; working to improve the safety of officers as well as the process for recruiting and retaining qualified officers. Last year Rep. Marino co-sponsored legislation that would require the Bureau of Prisons to allow officers to carry pepper spray. In his capacity on the House Judiciary Committee, he has also called for a thorough oversight hearing for the Bureau of Prisons to review everything from recruiting and pay to discipline procedures and safety protocols.
Rep. Marino noted that despite current budgetary constraints, "I have long advocated for common-sense exemptions to hiring and pay freezes for federal law enforcement officers," and added, "Most in Congress recognize the critical role of the Bureau of Prisons and are willing to make the necessary investments as long as the money is being used efficiently."
On March 6, 2013, Marino voted in favor of H.R. 933, a continuing resolution bill to fund the federal government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, which included additional funding for the Bureau of Prisons for salaries and expenses.