Monroe Prison Guard Commits Suicide Months After Colleague Is Murdered by Inmate

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It has not been a good year for guards at the state's largest prison. In January, you may recall, Jayme Biendl, a 34-year-old officer at the Monroe Correctional Complex, who was working alone and unarmed in the prison chapel, was murdered by Byron Scherf, a 52-year-old lifer convicted in 1997 on first-degree rape and kidnapping charges. Scherf strangled Biendl with a microphone cord in what he told responding officers was a failed escape attempt.

Biendl was the first guard killed by an inmate in the 100-year history of the institution. Her murder fueled concern that reduced staffing brought on by budget cuts has led to unsafe working conditions for prison guards. Compounding matters, Biendl had complained to her union shop steward that working alone in the chapel made her fear for her safety.

And now this: Yesterday, a 49-year-old guard at the same prison was found dead in his car of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man, whose name has yet to be released, was said to be a friend of Biendl. They both started their jobs in 2002. We can't know whether this suicide has any connection to Biendl's murder, but we do know this: Being a prison guard is very difficult, unpleasant work, cutbacks have made the work even more difficult and unpleasant, and, in a related development, a second guard from the state's largest prison has met an early demise within a period of five months.

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