Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. Thank you, Director Inch, for inviting me to join today for this important and powerful memorial service.
It is humbling to speak with you here at a memorial that stands as an enduring testament to the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers. There is no better setting for us to pause and reflect on the heroism of our correctional officers and employees who bravely serve across the country.
As the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, it is my honor to serve alongside you. At the Criminal Division, I oversee approximately 700 attorneys who prosecute organized crime, gang violence, child exploitation, child pornography, international drug trafficking, largescale financial fraud, human rights violations, and many other federal crimes. Our prosecutors work side-by-side with our law enforcement partners to bring criminals to justice, and to ensure that those who put Americans in danger are incapacitated and incarcerated.
But make no mistake: We fully recognize that the task of protecting Americans does not end at the prison walls. It is the tens of thousands of brave men and women serving our country behind those prison walls who remain on the front lines, keeping us safe.
Your daily work may not garner many headlines, but day in and day out, your work is public service in its purest sense. You ensure the safe and secure custody of the 155,000 inmates in Bureau of Prisons institutions across the nation. You provide humane conditions of confinement so criminals are properly punished for their crimes consistent with our system of justice.
And your calling goes deeper still: You rebuild lives. You reform offenders. You steer incarcerated defendants in the right path. You foster conditions that promote success and productivity outside of prison. You teach, treat, mentor, manage, and counsel.
The Department of Justice recognizes that our country is safer today – and will be safer in the future – because of the many important contributions of our Bureau of Prisons correctional officers and employees.
You do all this in challenging environments and often in the face of grave risks. The threat of violence is always there. The Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, is currently trying two federal inmates charged with fatally stabbing a fellow prisoner at the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont because the victim allegedly violated the rules of their violent gang, Soldiers of Aryan Culture. Just two weeks ago, a federal jury in South Carolina convicted an inmate of plotting to kill his ex-wife with a mail bomb he ordered using a contraband cellphone in prison.
Prior to my current position, I worked for many years as a prosecutor in the national security section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In November 2000, at the Metropolitan Correctional Center just a few hundred feet from my former office, Officer Louis Pepe was savagely attacked by an incarcerated al Qaeda terrorist – causing Officer Pepe to suffer brain damage and leaving him blind in one eye.
The Department of Justice takes seriously each and every risk you face. This Department has made it a high priority, for example, to work with the Bureau of Prisons to address the security threat posed by contraband cell phones in prisons. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said, the Department of Justice has the back of all honest and honorable law enforcement officers. It is our profound responsibility to do all we can to protect the safety of those who keep us safe.
This morning, we join in mourning and remembering 26 of our brave federal prison employees who made the ultimate sacrifice. We pay special tribute to Correctional Officer Boyd H. Spikerman. On January 29, 1984, at the age of just 32, Officer Spikerman was tragically ambushed and killed in the line of duty by an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin.
Today, we honor Officer Spikerman’s memory, his life, his service to our country, and his loved ones. Officer Spikerman is not forgotten, and he never will be. The poignancy of Officer Spikerman’s loss more than three decades later is a reminder of the extraordinary debt we owe those who put their lives on the line to enforce our laws and uphold our justice system.
I was walking through this memorial the other day, and I saw a quotation carved under one of the lions that struck me as particularly fitting. It reads: “In valor there is hope.”
Thank you for your valor. Your bravery – and the examples you set – keep our country safe. I am proud to be your colleague.