May 7, 2024

With ‘Eternal Gratitude’ Bureau Of Prisons Honors Fallen

Walter Pavlo

May 7, 2024 started as a gray day at Washington D.C.’s National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial park where the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) honored 26 fellow corrections officers and contractors who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The two most recent casualties were those of Eric J. Williams and Osvaldo Albarati who were killed on consecutive days at two different institutions in February 2013. Williams died while working at USP Canaan where he was attacked and killed by an inmate and Albarati was ambushed and killed while he was driving home from work. After an investigation it was determined that Albarati’s shooting was carried out with assistance from federal inmates housed at MDC Guaynabo who relayed information by cell phones to assailants outside the prison.

This is National Correctional Officers Week and the American Federation of Government Employees reminded its BOP members that of the challenges and potentially hazardous conditions that face 30,000 correction officers across the country. “We must acknowledge the sacrifices and challenges these men and women endure daily, often working in high-stress environments with limited resources,” said Brandy Moore White, president of the AFGE Council of Prison Locals. “Their role, while often overlooked, is invaluable to the functioning of our justice system and the betterment of society.”

We look for events that unite rather than divide us and the ceremony in Washington D.C. brought out the best of the BOP. The solemn remembrance took place in a beautiful park where BOP Director Colette Peters and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice Marshall Miller addressed over 100 in attendance. Miller said of the job BOP’s efforts, “Every day, correctional workers enter unpredictable and potentially dangerous environments ... And as they do that, they share a common objective: to create safe and humane conditions in confinement and to help prisoners re-enter society and become productive community members.”

Retired BOP Director Charles Samuels was so moved by the dedication of BOP’s workers that in announcing his retirement in June 2015 he listed each of the twenty-six BOP officers who lost their lives. There have been no additional staff members killed in the line of duty since Samuels’ retirement. In his closing letter to the Agency Samuels wrote, “Take care of one another, take care of our beloved agency, and never forget our Fallen Heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the American people ...”.

The BOP has many challenges, chief among them is sufficient staff to carry out the job of supervising and caring for over 150,000 federal prisoners located across the country. Ceremonies like this provide not only a sense of remembering those who have fallen, but the commitment of the BOP to recognize the difficult job they perform each day. Director Peters said, “Today we also remember and hold up those family members who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. We come here together to grieve, to comfort one another and to pay our respect to the fallen.”

With these tragedies, improvements were made to protect BOP employees. After the death of Eric Williams, the BOP instituted a program for staff in the prison to carry pepper spray to defend themselves. On March 9, 2016, President Barack Obama signedinto law the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2015. The bill gave the Director of the BOP authorization to issue pepper spray to correctional officers and other employees at all federal prisons except minimum and low security institutions. Lieutenant Osvaldo Albarati’s death was associated with the use of prisoners using cell phones to coordinate a hit. Now, congress is considering legislation to stiffen the penalties for cell phone introduction into prisons as well as deploying jamming equipment that renders the phones useless.

Twenty-six roses were placed by a honor guard on a seal of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial as, one-by-one, the names were read. As each name was spoken, a single bronze bell was rung in remembrance.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is located in the 400 block of E Street, NW, Washington, DC and is the nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. The Memorial features two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray limestone walls. Carved on these walls are the names of more than 23,000 officers who died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known death in 1786.

The BOP is often criticized for its lack of transparency, but for one day it did an outstanding job of remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and demonstrated to family members that those who were lost will not be forgotten.

As the ceremony ended, the skies cleared and we were all reminded that while we have our differences, the things that unite us, such as honoring service to our country, are traditions that bring us together so we can tackle the problems of the day.

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Article originally published on by Walter Pavlo (May 7, 2024)

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