It’s with a heavy heart that I type my post this morning. I learned last night that another federal correctional officer has died – this time by his own hand. I don’t have all of the details - not even his name - but the story is that this officer was in the Control Center at the U.S. Penitentiary in Canaan, Pennsylvania, the night that Officer Eric Williams was fatally attacked by inmates. The officer apparently felt extreme guilt because he wasn’t able to do anything to save his friend. (I’m assuming they were friends, anyway.) Given that USP Canaan is a fairly new facility it is also possible the officer watched the murder on camera. The new institutions do have that capability.
The story is that this officer went with his father to a firing range for some target shooting. While there, the officer turned the gun on himself and administered a fatal shot. I cannot imagine the horror that father felt when his son committed that awful act. That father will have to live with the sight of that tragedy for the rest of his life. It’s painful enough to lose a child for any reason, but to lose one to his own hand and have it happen right in front of you must be devastating.
I also cannot imagine the pain the officer was obviously in. I have never in my lifetime experienced anything that made me consider doing something to myself so I have no idea what that feels like. But obviously this man’s emotional state was to a point where he simply couldn’t live with it anymore. How terribly sad for him – and for everyone who knew him.
They say suicide is a selfish act because you leave your loved ones behind to pick up the pieces and carry on without you; many left wondering why you did it. And I suppose that’s true. Yet I also believe that when someone gets to the point where they actually take their own life they are beyond caring about what other people think. It must be emotional torture for someone who is seriously contemplating suicide – knowing that if they do it there are no take backs. How terrible it must feel inside when you believe your only option to stop the pain is to end your life.
Suicide is considered a sin by many churches and religious organizations. Personally, I believe God understands mental and/or emotional illness and that whoever commits that act will be judged on his relationship with Jesus Christ rather than his last physical act on Earth.
The human mind is a fascinating but potentially dangerous place. In the depths of despair we can allow ourselves to go places from which there is sometimes no return. I wish this man had turned to someone, anyone, to talk about his feelings. I wish he’d have turned to God and allowed Him the opportunity to give comfort and healing. I now wish those same things upon his father and family. May they find comfort and peace in God and in the staff and families of USP Canaan, who I’m sure will be there for them.
May God bless the staff of the Bureau of Prisons in this dark and dismal time. You are not forgotten by those of us who have retired and moved on. We are still family.