They preside over hardened criminals on a daily basis, just like police officers, only the criminals they oversee are often present in greater numbers. To act against a correctional official is surely just as flagrant example of striking back at law enforcement as it is to kill a police officer.
The idea of deterrence is perhaps even more important in the case of a corrections officer. After all, a person acting against a police officer has more to lose than a person acting against a corrections officer. If a person shoots at a police officer, he or she stands a chance of loosing his or her liberty or his or her life. But an individual incarcerated in prison, perhaps for life, or for a duration in jail that 'feels' like life to a hardened, desperate criminal, has nothing to lose. Striking back in a violent fashion against a corrections official seems like second nature, especially in the violent atmosphere of a prison. Deterrence in the killing of correctional officers in prison is, if anything, an even more pressing matter than it is under the circumstances of the street.
Ironically, although rates of violent crime have declined many of the nation's cities, prisons are more violent and dangerous than ever. Overcrowding is also rampant. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, in 2005, fourteen states oversaw prison population increases of at least 5%, led by South Dakota (up 11.9%), Montana (up 10.9%), and Kentucky (up 10.4%). These inmate increases were not matched by substantially expanded facility capacity or human support, making the protection of the law for our correctional officers all the more vital. Furthermore, state prisons were operating between 1% below and 14% above capacity; Federal prisons were operating at 34% above capacity ("Prisoners in 2005," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2006).
Even as the streets may be growing safer in some corners of the nation, prisons are growing more violent. Corrections officials must have the support of the laws of the land so they know that the job they do is valued, and also that they can feel secure in their persons. If correctional officers feel threatened, it will be increasingly difficult to find men and women willing to staff our nation's prisons. Deterrence is especially necessary when men and women who are already stripped of the usual deterrent of losing their liberty are grouped together. Furthermore, given that the American public and the Supreme Court supports the death penalty, provided it is enforced in an equitable manner, ensuring that a crime against all law enforcement representatives, including correctional officers as well as police officers, would make the death penalty both more fairly enforced and also more in keeping with the expressed will of the population and judiciary.
Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty." Death Penalty Information Center.
2007. 21 Mar 2007. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?did=144&scid=10
This article provides a list of states that have the death penalty, and how and when the death penalty is used. The Death Penalty Information Center is an objective fact-gathering organization and provides this list as an informational resource. List is presented in an objective, factual manner.
Part I: History of the Death Penalty." Death Penalty Information Center. 2007.
21 Mar 2007. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?scid=15&did=410#ConstitutionalityoftheDeathPenaltyinAmerica brief history of the death penalty as it has been used historically, why the Supreme Court overturned and reinstated it during the 1970s. The article is presented as a historical overview, neither for nor against the death penalty, as the organization attempts to act as a fact-finding website, and does not advocate a specific position.
Part II: History of the Death Penalty." Death Penalty Information Center. 2007.
21 Mar 2007. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?scid=15&did=411#Religion
Examination of a variety of contemporary issues and views about the death penalty, such as the percentage of the population that supports or does not support it, issues regarding the death penalty's use against women, minorities, and mentally incapacitated persons. The organization attempts to present both sides of the issue.
Prisoners in 2005." Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice.2006.
21 Mar 2007. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/p05.htm
Statistical overview of U.S. state and federal prison population. Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice. Although the federal government supports the death penalty, presented as an overview of facts, not pro-or con, although does not have specific information on how all statistics were compiled.