By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — A Valley congressman has urged the Bureau of Prisons — and its director, Charles Samuels — to take a comprehensive look at all policies affecting the safety of federal corrections officers.
In a letter sent to Samuels on Friday, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-10 of Cogan Station, wrote, “The bureau ... can and must do more to ensure that correctional officers are operating in a safe and orderly work environment.”
Marino also called for a re-evalution of policies pertaining to the recruitment and retention of officers.
Correctional officer Eric Williams was attacked and murdered on Feb. 25 while performing nightly lockdown duties at the U.S. Penitentiary in Canaan, located in Marino’s 10th Congressional District. Several reports indicated that Williams was alone with 130 inmates at the time of the attack, equipped 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 do more to adequately protect the officers who put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” Marino said in his letter.
“Since being elected to serve in Congress, I have advocated that the bureau 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,” he said.
Last year, 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 also has called for a thorough oversight hearing for the Bureau of Prisons to review everything from recruiting and pay to discipline procedures and safety protocols.
Despite budgetary constraints, Marino said, “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, 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.