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Corrections chief changes policies after Monroe guard's murder

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Under new procedures announced today, state prisons (such as this one in Shelton) will operate under new security guidelines. The revisions stem from guard Jayme Biendl's killing last Saturday at Monroe.

The state Department of Corrections is changing some of its procedures in response to the killing of a female guard at the Monroe prison last weekend.

Jayme Biendl was found strangled in the prison's chapel last Saturday night. An inmate has been arrested in the killing.

Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said Friday that prisons will immediately:

  • begin counting staff members whenever an offender is missing;
  • officers will begin regular check-ins on guards who serve at duty posts alone;
  • conduct drills on the use of silent alarms on the hand-held radios that guards carry.

In addition, the department says it will no longer hold modified lockdowns once a month at the state's eight major prisons. The lockdowns coincided with furloughs of nonessential staff to save money.
Spokesman Chad Lewis says that stopping the lockdowns will make the prisons safer because those nonessential staff members will be present.

Biendl had previously complained to others that she didn't feel safe working alone in the prison chapel.

Union urges no more budget cuts

Members of the union which represents state prison workers urged lawmakers not to cut department funds any further, according to The Herald of Everett:

“The mood up there is very dark. It is very angry,” said Susan Plouff, an administrative assistant at the prison in Monroe. “We’re angry that we’ve been asked to do more with less … in a very dangerous place. I ask that you fund us so we don’t have this happen again.”

Info on previous alleged assaults released

Meantime, the Monroe Reformatory and Monroe Police have released some information about three of five alleged assaults inside the prison.

The Seattle Times reports that in at least two of the five cases, the alleged victims were women:

  • On Aug. 24, a custodian said an inmate touched offensively, then ran off.
  • On Sept. 24, a chemical-dependency counselor said an inmate put his hands on or around her neck but she was unable to run from the room. The case was subsequently dropped, but Frakes has asked the Snohomish County prosecutor to re-evaluate the case.
  • On Nov. 10, a male corrections officer was allegedly charged, head-butted and bitten by an inmate, but not seriously injured.

Details about the other two cases have not been released. One case still open involves a relationship between an inmate and a guard.
Biendl's family released a statement Thursday describing their loss. They have asked for privacy since her death.

Memorial Set for Tuesday, Feb. 8th

A public memorial for Jayme Biendl will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Comcast Arena, 2000 Hewitt Ave., in Everett. Donations in the officer's memory may be sent to Union Bank, 201 W. Main St., Monroe, WA 98272.

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