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In Wake Of Wash. Prison Officer's Death, Safety Violations Remain

Slain correctional officer Jayme Biendl. Photo courtesy Wash. DOC
Slain correctional officer Jayme Biendl. Photo courtesy Wash. DOC

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington's prison system has failed to resolve numerous safety issues in the wake of the murder of a correctional officer. That's the finding of the state's workplace safety watchdog agency.

Last January, Officer Jayme Biendl was strangled to death, allegedly by an inmate, in the chapel at the prison in Monroe. In July, Washington's Department of Labor and Industries ordered the prison system to make a series of safety improvements.

But now more than two months later, ten of 16 safety hazards remain unresolved. One of them has to do with how officers should respond if they hear mysterious sounds on their two-way radios. It's believed Biendl keyed the mic on her radio as she was being attacked, but no one went to investigate.

Hector Castro with Labor and Industries says the prison system has since outfitted officer radios with new panic buttons, but that doesn't go far enough.

"We agree these are an improvement over what they had before," Castro says. "But we've responded by saying they still need a policy or some sort of procedure for monitoring microphone clicks and these transmissions that are non-verbal."

The Department of Corrections has been given another 30 days to resolve this and other safety gaps. The agency says it's working collaboratively with Labor and Industries on remaining unresolved improvements to officer safety.

On the Web:

Dept. of Labor and Industries investigation results:

Jayme Biendl investigation fact sheet:

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.