Anthony Bill to Classify Corrections Officers as First Responders

Legislation seeks to arm officers in fight against opioid epidemic
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

LANSING — State Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) introduced legislation today to include state and local corrections officers in the definition of “peace officer” in Michigan law. With the introduction of House Bill 4056, Rep. Anthony seeks to close current gaps in the system that prevent corrections officers from effectively responding to drug overdoses. Corrections officers conduct routine wellness checks on inmates during their rounds, often making them the first responder on the scene of a drug overdose or other medical emergency, yet they are not afforded the same professional protections as other first responders who carry and administer opioid antagonists.

 “The opioid crisis has impacted every corner of our state, but throughout it all, the dedication and bravery of our first responders has never wavered,” said Rep. Anthony. “Our hardworking corrections officers have the potential to make an immediate difference for the inmates in their care by intervening in a life-threatening medical emergency. We owe it to them to ensure they have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively, without the fear of being left vulnerable to opioid exposure or facing legal consequences in the event an overdose leads to medical complications. Even a few minutes delay in administering an opioid antagonist can be the difference between life and death for a person, especially for inmates who do not often have family nearby to seek medical treatment on their behalf.”

Corrections officers have long been carrying out the duties of first responders, but are denied the tools and access to medications they need to be effective. HB 4056 seeks to codify these practical ideas into state law and allow effective and efficient response to a drug overdose until further medical care can be administered.

Classifying corrections officers as peace officers has been a longtime priority of the Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO), the employee union that represents roughly 6,100 Corrections Officers and Forensic Security Assistants working inside Michigan’s prisons. MCO Director of Government Affairs Jeremy Tripp maintains that this legislation is a crucial step toward achieving safe working conditions for officers and more secure correctional facilities in Michigan.

“As first responders behind prison walls, corrections officers serve on the front lines of the opioid epidemic that has spread across America. This legislation protects those who protect others and recognizes the sacrifices they make every day,” explained Tripp. “The legislation will not only allow corrections officers to protect inmates who are exposed or are actively in the throes of overdose, but it will enable them to protect each other if exposed to the deadly effects of opioids. We need to pass this common-sense legislation as soon as possible.”