In Memory of Correctional Officer Pedro Joel Rodríguez-Mateo
On Thursday, August 1, 2019, the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced the loss of a correctional officer who died in the line of duty. Correctional Officer Pedro Rodríguez-Mateo passed away from injuries he incurred the previous day when an inmate assaulted him.
On July 31, Officer Rodríguez-Mateo was assigned to supervise the inmate visitation area. He was at the Ponce Maximum Security Facility. While working his shift, Rodríguez-Mateo noticed a visitor passing something to an inmate. He halted the visit and moved the inmate to a separate room away from the visitation area.
As Officer Rodríguez-Mateo searched the inmate, the prisoner assaulted him. The inmate attacked Officer Rodríguez-Mateo and took his baton from him. The convicted murderer then took the baton and used it several times to strike Officer Rodríguez-Mateo in the head. Rodríguez-Mateo was rushed to the local hospital for treatment, where he was found to have a fractured skull. He died the next day.
The inmate was charged with the first-degree murder of a correctional officer. He died in prison the following month.
Officer Rodríguez-Mateo was a sworn law enforcement officer who had served his community in corrections for over 25 years. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant. Officer Rodríguez-Mateo was 44 years old.
ACU President Juan González felt that recent changes in restrictions for maximum security inmates were to blame. “Today, one of our colleagues is fighting for his life simply because Corrections allowed maximum-security inmates to be without restrictions during visitation. We warned the secretary that this was a serious mistake that put officers’ lives in danger.”
Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Puerto Rico
Correctional Officer Rodríguez-Mateo worked for the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. PRDOC is considered an executive-level law enforcement agency on the island of Puerto Rico. The department, in its current state, was reformed in 1993.
The jurisdiction of the department covers 3,515 square miles. The department provides correctional services to a population of approximately 3.3 million residents. PRDOC covers these responsibilities with a force of more than 6,675 employees, many of whom are sworn law enforcement officers. There are no private prisons in Puerto Rico.
Correctional Officer Pedro Joel Rodríguez-Mateo leaves behind his wife and two children. Hundreds of law enforcement, residents, family, and friends came to show their appreciation to the officer and his family.
The AFSCME or American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees organization posted details of the loss and sympathies for the family. “AFSCME is mourning the loss of our brother Pedro Rodríguez-Mateo, a corrections officer in Puerto Rico who was killed in the line of duty. He was a member of Alianza Correccional Unida (ACU), Servidores Públicos Unidos, AFSCME Council 95. AFSCME expresses our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Rodríguez-Mateo. In addition, we have reached out to his wife, Gloria Cruz, to offer support through our union’s Fallen Heroes Fund.”
Department of Correction and Rehabilitation Secretary Erik Rolón Suárez shared his thoughts on the loss. “Today, we don’t lose an officer, today we lose a friend and an excellent public servant, my deepest condolences to his wife, family, and friends.”