Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8) introduced the Pay Our Correctional Officers Fairly Act, aimed at ensuring fair compensation for Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees, particularly in rural areas. The bill seeks to address critical staffing shortages within correctional institutions by enabling competitive pay structures that better align with factors such as cost of living, commute times, alternative career opportunities, and the dedication of BOP personnel.
Congressman Cartwright echoed these sentiments, stating that the proposed legislation represents a crucial step towards prioritizing the well-being of correctional officers and ensuring the effective operation of our prison system.
Senator Casey and Congressman Cartwright have been longstanding advocates for improving working conditions within the Bureau of Prisons and enhancing the safety of both staff and inmates. Following the tragic murder of USP Canaan Corrections officer Eric Williams, they introduced The Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, which mandated the provision of pepper spray to correctional workers in medium and high-security facilities. This legislation, now law, also established comprehensive training requirements and oversight mechanisms to ensure its effectiveness.
Furthermore, both lawmakers have consistently championed safety initiatives and increased federal funding for BOP facilities, with Senator Casey notably advocating for enhanced staffing levels and improved retention rates through various legislative measures.
The proposed Pay Our Correctional Officers Fairly Act comes at a time of escalating concerns over staffing shortages within correctional facilities. Recent projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate a projected 7% decline in correctional officer numbers by 2032, exacerbating existing challenges. Under the current system, BOP often resorts to utilizing personnel from other professions, such as cooks and teachers, to fill staffing gaps, resulting in compromised operational efficiency and reduced inmate services.
To address these issues, the bill aims to reclassify BOP employees in rural areas under the highest comparable pay locality within a 200-mile radius, thereby ensuring equitable compensation that reflects the local cost of living.
Joining Senators Casey and Cartwright in sponsoring the bill are Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), demonstrating bipartisan support for this critical initiative. In the House of Representatives, Congressman Cartwright has introduced companion legislation alongside Representative Randy Weber (R-TX-14) and a coalition of 29 members.