Lousy: Guard survives Iraq, dies on job at U.S. prison attack
This is a discussion on Lousy: Guard survives Iraq, dies on job at U.S. prison attack within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Guard survives Iraq, dies on job at U.S. prison - CNN.com
ATWATER, California (CNN) -- Jose Rivera survived two tours of duty in Iraq, but ...
August 26th, 2008 12:52 PM
Lousy: Guard survives Iraq, dies on job at U.S. prison attack
Guard survives Iraq, dies on job at U.S. prison - CNN.com
ATWATER, California (CNN) -- Jose Rivera survived two tours of duty in Iraq, but his job as a corrections officer at a high-security federal prison in California cost him his life.
Two inmates using a homemade shank are accused of stabbing Rivera to death in June at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California.
The inmates -- Jose Sablan, 43, and James Guerrero, 40 -- were indicted earlier in August and charged with murder. They have not yet entered a plea.
"It was two against one, you know, and no one helped him," said Rivera's grieving mother, Terry. "I didn't think that it would happen, but it was not safe for him to work there."
Rivera was 22 and had been in his job at the 960-plus inmate prison for just 10 months when he died.
He was alone guarding about 100 inmates at the time of the attack and had a radio to call for backup in case of trouble. He didn't have what many guards in California's state prisons routinely count on: pepper spray, a protective vest and a collapsible baton. Federal officers are not allowed to have those items.
CNN asked the federal Bureau of Prisons why it opposes giving its corrections officers nonlethal weapons. In a statement, the bureau said the issue is under review and no final decisions have been made.
"However," the bureau added, "we also know through 75 years of experience that federal correctional facilities are managed most effectively through frequent and direct communication with inmates."
"I would call that unproven," said Chad Trulson, a criminal justice professor at the University of North Texas who has studied prison issues. "I don't think that will diminish their communication at all" by giving officers these weapons.
He added that while non-lethal weapons would do little to stop inmates already inclined to attack, they would "make a world of difference" for the officers' safety.
Rivera's death has generated support for more protective gear and nonlethal weapons for federal corrections officers and has brought nationwide attention to the threats facing them, said guards and their union officials.
One officer who has worked for several years at Atwater, where Rivera was killed, said he feels threatened every day. Unless the federal government provides additional protection, he said he's thinking about leaving the job.
The officer requested his name not be used because he fears retaliation. He recounted how a fellow corrections officer's jaw was broken in nine places in an inmate attack last year.
"Every single inmate in there is armed to the teeth for his own protection," the officer said. "I am not Bruce Lee, so I can't take on 110 inmates by myself.... Every day it is like David vs. Goliath. You are taking on the world by yourself."
Prisoners make shanks like the one used to kill Rivera and other weapons from otherwise benign objects -- toothbrushes, toilet parts, cookie sheets, ice picks and kitchen utensils to name a few.Gang rivalries exacerbate an already volatile situation.
Gearing up isn't the only solution, said union officials who represent the federal prison system's 15,427 officers. The American Federation of Government Employees said the federal prisons are severely overcrowded and understaffed. On average, they are at 136 percent of capacity.
"The homicide rates among the inmate populations are at the highest levels they've ever been in the history of the Bureau of Prisons," said Bryan Lowry, the president of the union's prison councils. "The assaults on staff, whether weapons or no weapons, has intensified," he added
More officers are needed to ensure safety in the federal prisons, which house 165,000 inmates, the union said.
The Bureau of Prisons said 14 percent of its jobs are unfilled at its 114 prisons and there is an "urgent need" for officers at several of the high security penitentiaries.
It is taking specific action at Atwater by offering a 17 percent recruitment incentive for new hires.
But the bureau disputed that violence toward guards is on the rise.
Federal officials said the rate of "serious assaults" on staff at penitentiaries has not increased over the past several years. But they said inmate assaults on both staff and fellow prisoners are more severe.
While not agreeing to provide officers with pepper spay or batons, the bureau said it has reviewed operations at 12 high-security prisons and is making some changes. The agency said it will buy protective vests and divide inmates into smaller groups when they are being moved. Two staff members will be added to beef up supervision at the prison housing units.
"The safety and security of our staff continues to be the highest priority of the Bureau of Prisons," the bureau said in its statement. It refused an interview request.
Officials in California's state prison system opened their doors for a CNN crew and talked openly about the nonlethal weapons and other protective gear that have become standard issue.
In the state prisons, each guard wears a stab-resistant vest and carries a can of pepper spray and an expandable baton. Officers said they would feel completely vulnerable if they didn't have them.
"The population is just too unpredictable and you never know if they are going to turn on you or not," said James Walker, warden at the California State Prison-Sacramento.
At that institution, more than 3,000 prisoners are housed in sections depending on their history of violence, whether they have any mental health problems or have posed any danger while incarcerated.
Prison officials said the pepper spray is used several times a week to quell incidents, while officers use their batons at least a few times a month.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch; Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
-- Benjamin Franklin
August 26th, 2008 01:23 PM
1 guard per 100 prisoners. Let do the math here. 1 GG vs. 100BGs = STUPIDITY. They are afraid that if they arm the guards with non-lethal weapons this will cut down on communications........give me a break....Rivera lost all his communications. The stinking criminals have to many rights. My prayers for the rest of the guards and his family.
Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.
Senior Instructor for Tactical and Defensive of Texas
August 26th, 2008 04:44 PM
I've been talking with people throughout the Bureau of Prisons and since this happened, nothing has changed.
I would urge all of you on this forum to write your Congress "critter" and ask them to increase the staffing levels at the BOP and give the people that work in the BOP protective gear as well as more funding.
I have a few friends that work for the BOP, and they say it's never been worse than it is now. Some, close to retirement, are thinking of quitting before they retire due to the safety issues.
When I talk with my friends we compare it to how it was when I worked State Corrections, let me just say, I'm astounded by the lack of forethought and planning that the BOP has. The people that work in the Federal Prisons are really putting their lives on the line daily, against really bad odds.
August 26th, 2008 04:47 PM
+1 only 22 years old it's a pure shame
Originally Posted by Reborn
August 26th, 2008 07:30 PM
That's how it works. I often have 160 prisoners by myself that can attack me. We wear no vest or carry anything to defend ourself. A couple of years ago, we had a young guy get shanked to death. No one seems to care about anything that goes on in a prison.This happened a while back.
Les Baer 45
N.R.A. Patron Life Member
August 26th, 2008 08:17 PM
What was gained by killing him? What was the smoking gun so to speak...must be more to the story.
August 26th, 2008 10:20 PM
I think if you kill a guard in prison they walk you over to the "happy"room immediately afterwards and fill it with cyanide gas wait 15 minutes and then safely ventilate then call your relatives to come get your rotting corpse,but that's just me
"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
--Mayor Marion Barry, Washington , DC .
August 26th, 2008 11:37 PM
No, not just you...me too!
Originally Posted by dukalmighty
Proverbs 27:12 says: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Certified Glock Armorer
NRA Life Member
August 27th, 2008 04:07 PM
Federal correction 'officials' need to spend some quality time with the pond scum that they keep there.
Originally Posted by JonInNY
"If we loose Freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the Last Place on Earth!" Ronald Reagan
August 27th, 2008 04:24 PM
Nope, it sure isn't just you. But I'd save the money on the gas and just shoot 'em, bullets are still cheap enough.
Originally Posted by dukalmighty
"Don't hit a man if you can possibly avoid it; but if you do hit him, put him to sleep." - Theodore Roosevelt
August 27th, 2008 09:23 PM
Budget shortfalls, unfunded mandates, etc. have lead up to a situation where not only are the facilities overcrowded but the staffing levels are at their lowest ever. Facilities have an authorized staffing level that isn't generous to start with, but now they are having to leave authorized personnel slots unfilled because the money isn't there to cover salaries and expenses. For a time, overtime was used to try to fill some of the gaps - but now the word from on high is to cut out overtime whenever possible. It just ain't right. The combination of overcrowding and insufficient staffing is putting every field staffer at risk - just because the government doesn't want to pay the bill for the laws they have passed.
I know of more than one staff murder that was pretty much just enhancing their rep, or not letting another convict out do them (USP Marion).
Originally Posted by bandit383
Retired FBOP (27 years)
August 28th, 2008 12:11 PM
blades don't run out of bullets and if they get dull it just takes an extra swing
Originally Posted by Paco
"An armed society is a polite society" - Robert A. Heinlein
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