After Monroe correctional officer Jayme Biendl was strangled by an inmate January 29--and a Walla Walla officer was attacked March 1 by an inmate who stabbed him in the face with a pen--it turns out that another inmate came up with a murder plan this month that essentially combined the two earlier incidents: He would kill a female officer with a sharpened pencil.
Following a review of the Monroe murder, the National Institute of Corrections has recommended officers wear personal body alarms and carry pepper spray--surprisingly, items they don't already have to defend themselves. But many preventive measures are sorely lacking, based on the NIC recommendations:
Proposed safety improvements include: add staff who are responsible for the whereabouts of all employees; improve the current radio system; test a proximity card system to track staff locations . . . train supervisors on enhanced security awareness to combat complacency; and temporarily reduce overcrowding in prisons, including an end to double-bunking at the Washington State Reformatory.
During a recent sit-down with Q-13 news, Monroe guards and staffers universally expressed a lack of confidence in Gov. Chris Gregoire and corrections officials--who refused to come on the show and talk with the guards. Officers told of the attacks each of them have endured by inmates, and described how prisoners are allowed to have access to knitting needles and keep scissors in their cells. They say state officials have yet to implement any new safety measures, so far offering up only lip service.
It's clear guards are growing increasingly resentful of inmates who, officers say, are kept so comfortable they call Monroe "Prisneyland." Says Sgt. James Palmer: "They're getting flat-screen TVs, they get cable better than most staff can afford to buy . . . they eat better than what our men and women serving in the military get." The guards actually feel more "disassociated" from state management than before Biendl's death, Palmer adds. "It's like talking to a wall."