June 06, 2014

Manchin and Toomey Spearhead Bipartisan Effort to Strengthen Protections for Federal Correctional Officers

Bill would allow correctional officers to carry firearms while commuting

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Continuing their bipartisan efforts to protect federal correctional officers, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced legislation Thursday to permit correctional officers to carry their personal firearms while they commute to-and-from work. The bill would allow officers to carry their firearms and store them in either central secure storage areas located outside of the secure perimeter of their prisons or in Bureau of Prison approved vehicle lockboxes while the officers are on duty.  

Currently, federal correctional officers are extended the same enhanced ability to carry personal firearms as police and other law enforcement officers while off-duty. However, unlike other law enforcement officers, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) prohibits correctional officers from carrying firearms while commuting to-and-from work and into the prison building. 

"Day in and day out, our correctional officers work in dangerous environments to keep the rest of us safe. It is simply common sense to allow them to carry firearms on their daily commute," Senator Manchin said. "I was proud to also introduce with my dear friend Senator Toomey the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, which would allow officers to carry pepper spray on the job, and we will continue to work to ensure the safety of these brave men and women."

"Providing correctional officers the ability to carry personal firearms while they commute to-and-from work is a common-sense safety measure," said Senator Toomey. "Every day, correctional officers put themselves in harm's way while at work.  They should not have to worry about their safety while they are not on BOP grounds."  

The impetus for this bill stems from the murder of Lt. Osvaldo Albarati, a correctional officer in Puerto Rico who was gunned down while driving home from work.  It is believed Albarati was murdered due to his work to end a cellphone smuggling ring at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

Last month, Senators Manchin and Toomey introduced the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2014, legislation that would authorize all correctional officers in federal medium-security prisons and higher to carry pepper spray. Also, the measure instructs the Government Accountability Office to evaluate issuing pepper spray to correctional officers in minimum or low-security penal facilities.