Pepper spray bill from Snyder, Mahoney signed into law

State corrections officers will be equipped with nonlethal aerosol

HARRISBURG, Nov. 21 – State Reps. Pam Snyder and Timothy S. Mahoney said their legislation requiring that all state corrections officers be equipped with pepper spray was signed into law today by Gov. Tom Wolf.

“Soon, Pennsylvania’s corrections officers will be provided a nonlethal and inexpensive tool – pepper spray -- to protect themselves and deter prison assaults,” said Snyder-D-Greene/Fayette/Washington. “I’m thankful on behalf of all the officers and their families and friends for the bipartisan support this commonsense safety tool has garnered.”

“We should all be thankful that Act 174 provides important protections for the corrections officers whose lives are put in continual jeopardy while on the job,” said Mahoney, D-Fayette/Somerset. “Those on the front line deserve the best protections we can provide, and pepper spray is a proven and valued deterrent.”

The measure requires the state Department of Corrections to issue canisters of oleoresin capsicum aerosol -- called "O.C." -- to officers working in medium- and high-security state prisons. State officers would receive training and be required to take refresher courses annually on use of the spray, which has been available to federal correctional officers.

The spray costs as little as $15 to $20 a canister and should be available in state correctional institutions by late January.

The two southwestern Pennsylvania Democrats introduced H.B. 2084 shortly after they toured SCI-Fayette in May and learned that few state corrections officers were equipped with the spray, despite a spate of assaults, drug busts and weapons seizures at the 2,000-inmate facility in Luzerne Township.

The measure received unanimous votes in the House and Senate and their judiciary committees.

“The governor’s signature will enable a dangerous encounter with an inmate to be defused in seconds with deployment of the self-defense spray,” Snyder said. “The determination to secure pepper spray for corrections officers never faltered during the six months since the initiative was launched.”

“It is most fitting that the measure becomes law during Thanksgiving week,” Mahoney said. “We’re thankful and look forward to its implementation.”

Snyder and Mahoney also are co-sponsors of H.B. 2261, a Blue Lives Matter bill that would elevate assaults on law enforcement officers to hate crime status in Pennsylvania. That bill, supported by the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police, would cover assaults on corrections officers, police officers, and probation and parole officers.