Snyder: Protecting corrections officers focus of new legislation

Snyder: Protecting corrections officers focus of new legislation 

HARRISBURG, Feb. 11 – Continuing her push to further protect corrections officers, state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, is joining two House colleagues to introduce a series of bills to bolster their safety.

Partnering with state Reps. Gerald J. Mullery, (D- Luzerne) and Neil Goodman (D-Schuylkill), Snyder is sponsoring House Bill 44, which would provide corrections officers the opportunity to submit written testimony or testify in person at parole hearings. The bill is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Snyder said additional bills to address officer safety are forthcoming, including a measure to allow corrections officers to carry Tasers, and a separate bill requiring the state Department of Corrections to establish a staffing plan to ensure no guard is left alone on duty, except during unforeseeable emergency circumstances.

“Two years ago, we were successful in enacting a law in Pennsylvania to allow corrections officers to carry pepper spray while on duty, but we can always do more to protect them,” Snyder said. “It’s a dangerous job and they deserve as many additional protections as possible.”

In 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Act 174, a measure introduced by Snyder, requiring the DOC to issue canisters of pepper spray to all officers working in medium- and high-security state prisons. The law also requires officers to be trained in its use and take refresher courses each year.

Snyder, whose district includes SCI-Fayette and SCI-Greene, said her advocacy for additional legislation reflects her commitment to the further safety and protection of state prison employees. It follows her call last year for a thorough review of state prison system employee safety and security, after more than two dozen employees statewide were sickened by a substance later identified as synthetic marijuana.

Making the case for additional safety measures, Snyder noted that last year 466 staff assaults occurred in Pennsylvania state prisons – including the beating death of a corrections officer at SCI-Somerset by an inmate with a history of violence.

“Each and every day, these men and women put their lives on the line, performing a stressful and dangerous job,” Snyder said. “The new bills would provide additional measures to ensure their security and safety.”