A real tragedy happened on Tuesday when a correctional officer at the federal prison in South Canaan was stabbed and killed by an inmate.
Nanticoke resident Eric Williams, 34, was killed sometime before the 10 p.m. lockdown at the prison.
Federal officials aren't releasing a lot of information about the incident and the case is now in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It will then be turned over to the office of the U.S. Attorney General for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
But a union representative for the correctional officers is talking about the incident.
He says Williams was alone with about 130 inmates and was preparing to lock them down when the stabbing happened. He also said that Williams would only have had a radio, keys and handcuffs when he was attacked.
This raises a myriad of issues which are hardly ever discussed.
When it comes to prisons, sometimes "out of sight, out of mind" is the mentality. To be sure, prison officials can sometimes be quite secretive, as well, when it comes to what is happening behind the walls.
But to think one person is responsible for 130 inmates raises eyebrows.
The union representative said they have been trying to get Congressional approval to have at least two officers present with that number of inmates.
It's probably safe to say most people hadn't really considered this scenario until tragedy struck on Tuesday. In fact, most people would probably reason that when there is that many inmates in a federal prison, there would be at least two guards present.
The coroner in the case said Williams died from "a combination of blunt head and neck trauma and hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds and cuts."
It is unclear how long Williams was in distress before other officers realized something had happened and came to help.
The press release from the prison said Williams was pronounced dead at 11:30 p.m. after being transported to the hospital.
The prison spokesman said Tuesday that lockdown takes place each night at 10 p.m. They would not say at what time Williams was attacked but it had to be prior to the nightly lockdown. That means he may have been alive for more than an hour and a half after suffering from the attack.
It is truly a tragedy when information like this has to come out after someone has died.
Too often all of us are focused on narrow problems, whether national or local, and don't think about matters that involve corrections officers at prisons.
Yet every day in this country, thousands of people go to work inside prisons and jails and face the same danger.
Page 2 of 2 - It would seem reasonable that at least two people should be with that many inmates. What if something else happened, like a heart attack or some sort of injury? How would that be handled?
These are important questions and deserve some answers.
Hopefully, out of this tragedy will come something good if nothing more than raising awareness about the conditions faced each day by correctional officers.
These men and women are just like everyone else. They have families and dreams and want the best life can offer. They are also doing a very dangerous job surrounded by the worst of our society.
I sure appears that something needs to be done to remedy these situations. It is our hope the life of Eric Williams will not have been in vain.