The House Judiciary Committee heard today about the need to better protect staff who work in state correctional facilities from violent inmates as part of a hearing on a package of prison reform bills by Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Bedford/Somerset).
“I have concerns about maintaining control of these facilities. We need to give officers the tools to make sure that the inmates are not running the prisons,” said Metzgar, who has two of the state’s 25 correctional facilities in his district. “I introduced this package of bills to protect our valued state correctional officers and prison staff. Whether an assault is on a staff member or another inmate, there needs to be repercussions.”
Committee members heard from more than a half dozen testifiers, include members of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association and the Department of Corrections (DOC). During his comments to the committee, Metzgar said the bill package was driven by his discussions with prison staff members, particularly corrections officers and their family members.
“These bills are driven by those who are on the front lines every day and see the need to fix our system,” Metzgar said. “These bills would give corrections officers the tools they need, take weapons inmates use to commit violent acts away and impose justice to restore order.”
Metzgar’s bills, all of which are in the House Judiciary Committee, are as follows:
• House Bill 256
would redefine assault on a prison staff member to reflect there is a lower threshold for an assault to occur when committed by an inmate on staff.
• House Bill 257
would impose a mandatory five-year sentence for those convicted of staff assault, served consecutive to a prior sentence, and a $5,000 fine against the inmate’s commissary account.
• House Bill 258
would place inmates who assault staff on the restricted release list, confining them to the restricted housing unit (RHU). Additionally, they cannot be released without a regional deputy secretary’s approval.
• House Bill 259
would mandate two guards per guard tower armed with autoloading rifles, with a minimum of 500 rounds per rifle pre-loaded in magazines.
• House Bill 260
would prohibit inmate access to boots, as this was the weapon used to kill corrections officer Sgt. Mark Baserman at State Correctional Institution-Somerset. Currently, the DOC still allows inmates to possess state-issued boots.
• House Bill 261
would eliminate parole eligibility for inmates convicted of staff assault.
• House Bill 263
would restrict commissary eligibility after a staff assault without a regional deputy secretary’s approval.
Representative Carl Walker Metzgar
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross