Federal review team recommends prison safety measures


by KING5.com


Posted on March 21, 2011 at 3:15 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. - A review team with the National Institute of Corrections says safety measures should be taken to better protect employees at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

Among 15 recommendations, the NIC says corrections officers should be issued 'panic buttons' on their uniforms to alert others if there is trouble. Also, it is recommended that officers start carrying pepper spray while working around inmates.

Governor Chris Gregoire requested the federal review after Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl was murdered in the prison chapel on Jan. 29.

Overall, the review team found staffing levels to be adequate, but say officers should be better monitored to ensure their safety. 

The Department of Corrections says it plans to implement all 15 recommendations made by the NIC. That includes adding additional staff, whose sole responsibility would be to monitor officers at all times.

Another recommendation is to rearrange some duties at the complex, to better position officers where they will be most effective.

Recommendations do not include removing the single man posts that have been a big concern for officers. Instead, the NIC recommends adding an electronic monitoring system to keep tabs on officers while on duty.

The D.O.C. says it also plans to enhance combat training for officers which was another recommendation from the N.I.C.
"There will always be a risk of incidents in our prisons, and nothing will completely eliminate that risks," said Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail. "However I believe that the NIC review will make our staff safer on the job."

Gregoire says it will take time to implement all of the new safety recommendations. She says she plans to fight for any additional funding that will be needed.
"My goal here is to do everything we can to make sure nothing like that happens again," Gregoire said.