WASHINGTON — Correctional officers at high-security federal facilities will be provided with stab-resistant protective body vests as standard operating procedure under a new Bureau of Prisons policy.
The policy was implemented following the fatal assault on correctional officer Jose Rivera by two inmates at the U.S. penitentiary in Atwater, Calif. Rivera was unarmed and stabbed to death by prison-made shanks, while overseeing more than 100 prisoners, according to reports.
Under scrutiny by lawmakers and union officials, the bureau took steps to improve prison safety measures, including issuing protective vests to maximum-security officers, providing additional staffing for day and night watches and more rigorous control of inmate movement.
Officers at maximum-security U.S. penitentiaries will not be required to regularly wear protective outer vests that are typically reserved for handling unruly inmates.
The new vest policy could be expanded by a bill proposed by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, which would require all 16,400 Bureau of Prisons correctional officers to wear vests while on duty, regardless of the security level. If approved, Cardoza’s bill would issue $20 million to the FBOP to purchase the vests.
Until recently, federal prison officers were not routinely supplied with protective vests, which some state prison correctional officers wear.
In fiscal year 2006, the FBOP reported 1,362 armed and unarmed inmate-on-staff assaults, and 1,780 armed and unarmed inmate-on-inmate assaults.