Friends and Family of Correctional Officers Protest

August 12, 2008 7:13:59 PM PDT
A grassroots group says it's making progress in the effort to improve safety at federal prisons. The movement began after authorities said Officer Jose Rivera was stabbed to death by two inmates inside the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater on June 20th.

A group called "Friends and Family of Correctional Officers" was formed just one month ago and already has hundreds of members. The organization says it's making an impact by keeping the issue of officer safety in the spotlight.

"Do you agree they should have stab resistant vests? Yes!"

More than a hundred people packed this Atwater parking lot to show their support for improving correctional officer safety.

James Spencer: "The officers who are currently working cannot speak out like I can, and by God, I'm gonna speak out until I die ... "

The mother of murdered officer Jose Rivera says she's determined to keep other families from suffering the way hers has...

Terry Rivera: "We're still hanging in there, it's pretty hard still, but we're hanging in there."

This grassroots group is calling for increased staffing, as well as stab-proof vests and non-lethal weapons for all correctional officers. They have the support of several city councils, Congressman Dennis Cardoza, and more than 600 members from across the country. Mary Ellen Estrella joined the effort in hopes of protecting her son, who worked with Rivera shortly before his death.

Mary Ellen Estrella, Mother of Correctional Officer: "I'm concerned for his safety. I think if they have safety vests and proper safety equipment maybe they have a chance if something like that happens again."

The union that represents correctional officers says pressure from the community has encouraged the Federal Bureau of Prisons to consider changes the agency has previously denied.

Bryan Lowry, Union Pres.: "At this point we have tentatively reached an agreement to provide this safety equipment to staff, however there is no purchase date, the agency still hasn't negotiated a contract with vendors to provide the vests."

Teri Rivera says this is just the beginning of her mission to protect other officers and make her son proud.

Terry Rivera: "I think he's very happy because we're out here trying to get something done so other officers can be safe."

Late this afternoon we received a response from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

A spokesperson says the agency is going to make three changes, starting at high security institutions.

The bureau plans to make vests available to officers, add two more staff members, and require inmates to be moved in smaller groups.

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