Barletta on House Floor: Pass Bill for Canaan Officer Eric Williams

Feb 24, 2016
Press Release
Bill Named for Slain Corrections Officer Provides Pepper Spray to Corrections Workers

Click here or on image for video of Rep. Barletta’s remarks on the House floor.

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge support for supplying pepper spray to federal corrections officers through legislation named for Nanticoke native Eric Williams, an officer at the U.S. Prison at Canaan who was killed by an inmate in 2013.   The Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act passed the House by a voice vote in the form of a senate bill sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (PA).  Barletta was a cosponsor of the House version from Rep. David McKinley (WV-1), along with Rep. Tom Marino (PA-10), Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17).  The bill now heads to the president’s desk for his consideration.

“On February 25, 2013, Eric Williams was working in the prison when he was suddenly attacked by an inmate.  The inmate knocked Officer Williams down a flight of steps and then stabbed him more than 200 times with a homemade shank,” Barletta said.  “If Officer Williams had been equipped with pepper spray three years ago, he might have been able to defend himself against that cowardly, ambush-style attack.  And perhaps he’d be alive today.”

Williams’ alleged attacker was convicted gang assassin Jessie Con-ui, a member of the violent New Mexican Mafia gang, who already was serving an 11-year sentence at the time.  Con-ui is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree murder of a U.S. corrections officer, and possessing contraband in prison.  Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. 

“At the time of the attack, Officer Williams was unarmed,” Barletta said.  “It makes sense that officers don’t carry firearms into areas where inmates could gain access to them.  But this bill tells the Bureau of Prisons to supply pepper spray to prison officers, or other employees who could be involved in emergency situations with inmates.  This will give correctional officers that fighting chance that Officer Williams did not have.”

During the legislative course of the bill, Barletta met with Eric Williams’ parents, Don and Jean Williams, who now help lead an organization called Voices of JOE.  The letters of J-O-E stand for Jose Rivera, Osvaldo Albarati, and Eric Williams, three former corrections employees who were targeted and killed because of their positions in the prison system.

Barletta’s entire statement on the floor of the House of Representatives is as follows:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act. 

First, let me explain the title of the bill.

Eric Williams was a constituent of mine from Nanticoke – a Senior Correctional Officer at the U.S. Prison at Canaan in Waymart, Pennsylvania, which is just outside my district.

On February 25, 2013 – that’s three years ago tomorrow – Eric Williams was working in the prison when he was suddenly attacked by an inmate. 

The inmate knocked Officer Williams down a flight of steps.

He then stabbed him more than 200 times with a homemade shank. 

That inmate is now charged with first-degree murder, first-degree murder of a U.S. corrections officer … and possessing contraband in prison.  Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. 

Needless to say, at the time of the attack, Officer Williams was unarmed.

Now, it makes sense that officers don’t carry firearms into areas where inmates could gain access to them.  But this bill tells the Bureau of Prisons to supply pepper spray to prison officers, or other employees who could be involved in emergency situations with inmates.

If Officer Williams had been equipped with pepper spray three years ago, he might have been able to defend himself against that cowardly, ambush-style attack.  And perhaps he’d be alive today.  This will give correctional officers that fighting chance that Officer Williams did not have.

I have had the privilege of meeting with Eric Williams’ parents, Don and Jean.  They’re now part of an organization called “Voices of JOE.” 

The letters of J-O-E stand for Jose Rivera, Osvaldo Albarati, and Eric Williams.

They were killed because of their jobs in the correctional system.

For them, Mr. Speaker, and all of our correctional officers who risk their lives every day, I urge support for the bill. 

I yield back.